New Orleans Welcomes Back Residents After Ida
The progress comes amid a rising death toll from the hurricane in Louisiana.,
With most power restored after Ida, New Orleans welcomes back residents.
- Sept. 9, 2021, 7:41 a.m. ET
With the vast majority of lights now on in New Orleans homes, city officials on Thursday are preparing for the next phase in navigating the aftermath of Hurricane Ida: recovery.
The slow progress toward normalcy comes even as the death toll from Ida rises — an additional 11 deaths were confirmed by the state department of health on Wednesday, bringing the count to 26 dead in Louisiana.
Ida was a Category 4 storm when it ravaged the state on Aug. 26, damaging homes and leaving hundreds of thousands of residents without electricity. As the utility company Entergy scrambled to get power back on in New Orleans during hot summer days, residents turned to backup generators for air-conditioning and flocked to cooling centers for reprieve.
As the outage continued, hospitals began receiving calls of individuals suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning because those generators had been misused. Of the 11 newly reported deaths, two were attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning; the rest were because of “excessive heat during an extended power outage,” according to the New Orleans coroner’s office.
Entergy, the city’s sole energy provider, had restored power to an estimated 90 percent of customers by Wednesday night. Although the mayor lifted the curfew that was put into place last week, the Police Department will continue to monitor areas that are still without power.
Thousands of residents who left New Orleans before the storm are trickling back in. An additional 1,100 residents who chose to evacuate to state-run shelters last week are also expected to make their return, according to the city’s director of homeland security, Collin Arnold.
“It’s what we’ve been waiting for,” Mr. Arnold said about the return of its residents. “This is kind of the end of the response aspect of all of this. Now, we begin recovery work.”
People in New Orleans are still struggling to obtain basic necessities — like food, water and ice — in the sweltering heat, and are flocking to distribution sites where they must wait for hours in long lines.
“The people that are coming back are coming home to an empty refrigerator,” Mr. Arnold said.
While the $14.5 billion flood-protection system built in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 prevented Ida from being more destructive, Mr. Arnold said, the city plans to examine the gaps that the storm exposed in its other aspects of its infrastructure, including its water and drainage system.
The prospects in New Orleans still remain better than other parts of the state. While power has been restored to a majority of the city’s residents, those residing in rural parts of Louisiana might have to wait weeks for power to be restored.
As the state attempts to put itself back together, the reality lingers that it remains the peak of hurricane season. Last year, the city of Lake Charles was hit by several storms, one after another — with Hurricane Laura and Delta dealing the most damage.
“My role here is that I have to think about the unthinkable,” Mr. Arnold said. “And we still need to be prepared for another storm.”