Nearly three-fourths of Capital Region still without power

Repair crews working on power lines. (File photo)

More than 72% of the Capital Region is still without power three days after Hurricane Ida made landfall, including 54% of the some 216,000 customers in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Though Baton Rouge was spared the worst of the storm, its power grid was not—which is why restoration is taking longer than some might have expected given that much of the city was  relatively unscathed.

“The power that feeds into Baton Rouge was definitely not unscathed,” Public Service Commission Chairman Dr. Craig Greene says. “Two of the main transmission lines that come into Baton Rouge, two of the three, were damaged. They’re back up now.”

Some of the smaller 69-kV lines that transmit power from the main lines to distribution substations also were damaged.

Then, there was the damage to individual substations and power lines.

“Big picture, we’re making a lot of progress,” Greene says. “But we still have a long way to go.”

That’s especially true in harder hit areas of Livingston and Ascension parishes, where 81% and 82% of customers, respectively, remain in the dark this afternoon.

Still, Greene is optimistic the majority of customers in the three parishes will be back online by the weekend and that schools will be able to reopen next week, though he can’t say for sure.

In a conference call this morning, Entergy officials also suggested the pace of restoration will pick up soon, especially in East Baton Rouge Parish.

“Generally if we’re close to 50% at this point, we will likely make great progress (towards restoration in Baton Rouge),” Entergy Louisiana CEO Phillip May says. “Sometime today we’ll be able to put pen to paper and say ‘this area will be back on at this point.’”

Critical infrastructure—hospitals, nursing homes, first responder buildings and traffic signals—will continue to take priority over individual homes, followed by commercial establishments like gas stations and grocery stores, May says.

While widespread outages were predicted before the powerful hurricane’s landfall, the total collapse of the New Orleans power grid and the vulnerabilities exposed in Baton Rouge and elsewhere in the system are prompting regulators to rethink hardening the grid—something that has been discussed for years but may finally move closer to reality.

“People are thinking long term,” Greene says. “We are getting a letter to the White House and the delegation soon, urging federal money to help with not only rebuilding but upgrading and trying to harden the grid—what can be underground, what can be under river, more robust.”