Power outages across Capital Region could last ‘up to three weeks’

Nearly 78% of residents in East Baton Rouge, Livingston and Ascension parishes remain without power this afternoon, and officials with Entergy and Cleco—the two major utilities that service the area—say they cannot yet estimate how long it will be before electricity is restored.

“Based on historical restoration times, customers in the direct path of a Category 4 hurricane can experience outages up to three weeks,” Entergy says in its 2 p.m. update. “While 90% of customers will be restored sooner, customers in the hardest-hit area should plan for the possibility of experiencing extended power outages.”

As of 2:30 p.m., 70% of East Baton Rouge Parish homes and businesses were without power, compared to 75% in Livingston Parish and 87% in Ascension Parish.

As frustrating as those percentages are, the numbers are far worse in the Greater New Orleans area, where 92% of Orleans Parish and 95% of Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes are without power, according to poweroutage.us.

Public Service Commission Chairman Dr. Craig Greene says first responders, U.S. National Guard troops and utility workers spent the day trying to assess the damage in order to come up with a game plan for getting as many customers on line as quickly as possible.

“But the first priority is getting the 51 hospitals that are now running on generator power up first,” he says.  

In addition to the electrical grid, wireless service is also compromised throughout the state.

AT&T’s wireless network in Louisiana is only operating at 60% of normal capacity due to power outages, flooding and storm damage. The company says it had key network facilities go offline overnight, and while some have already been restored, some facilities “remain down and are inaccessible due to flooding and storm damage.”

A spokeswoman for Verizon told The New York Times that while the company was seeing sites out of service in the heaviest hit areas, overlapping sites are offering some coverage to residents and first responders who remain there. Many cell sites were running on backup generators and batteries, she said.

Verizon says it is providing unlimited calling, texting and data to its customers most affected by Ida. AT&T is waiving overage charges for customers in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi through Saturday. T-Mobile said Sunday that most T-Mobile and Sprint customers in the affected area would be offered free talk, text and unlimited data through Friday.