October 2, 2022

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New Orleans Restarts Key Power Line, First Flights Take Off

(Bloomberg) — A second critical transmission line that delivers power to New Orleans is up and running again and flights are slowly resuming at the city’s airport.

The line was restored early Thursday morning, bringing in power from west of the city, Ramsey Green, New Orleans deputy chief administrative officer, said in a press briefing. Hurricane Ida knocked out all eight of the key transmission lines that link Louisiana’s biggest city to the broader grid, and the first, an eastbound connection, went back into service early Wednesday. Power is gradually flickering back on in some neighborhoods.

Delta Air Lines flights began taking off on Thursday, United Airlines will follow on Friday and other airlines are working to resume operations this weekend, Green said.

The milestones come amid painstaking efforts to repair the energy infrastructure devastated by the storm Sunday that left more more than a million homes and businesses in the dark. City officials and Entergy Corp., the state’s biggest utility, haven’t provided a timeline for restoration, and the hardest-hit parts of the region may not have electricity for weeks.

“When I think about Katrina and the the worst fears that our residents had with Hurricane Ida churning in the Gulf and what I’m seeing, it’s unsafe sure, but it is not devastation,” Green said in a telephone interview Thursday. “What I am seeing is a city that durably came back from a near-category 5 hurricane and there’s no flood water. There’s limited structural damage to private and public property.”

With power again flowing over those two lines, Entergy can simultaneously work on restoring power from both the eastern and western sides of the city, Green said. Entergy has 13 substations back online, leaving 14 that are still out of service.

The New Orleans Power Station, a fast-starting gas-fired unit with 128 megawatts of capacity, could have been on sooner but Entergy needed roughly 24 hours to check the plant and the distribution system to ensure it was safe to start it, Green said.

The company expects to complete its damage assessments Thursday, according to a statement. That will let executives start providing estimates for when service can be restored. A total of 137,000 customers have been restored in Louisiana, from a total of 904,000 who lost power from the storm.

“Their goal for today is to restore the balance of the French Quarter, which came on last night, and the balance of the central business district, which also in part alighted last night,” he said.

About 914,000 customers are still without power in Louisiana and another 25,600 are in the dark in Mississippi as of 6:51 p.m., according to PowerOutage.US.

The city has cleared debris from more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) of public rights of way. However, gasoline is in short supply, and the lack of fuel is hindering some relief efforts.

“The road ahead of us is going to be a long one,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said during the briefing.

(Updates with official comments from the third paragraph.)

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