“There’s just not much you can say that brings comfort to people when the lights are out, other than ‘I can assure you that these companies are working … hard.'”
JEFFERSON PARISH, La. — About 72% of Jefferson Parish is still in the dark Friday morning as Entergy crews continue assessing the damage caused by Hurricane Zeta and start in earnest the massive task of repairing electrical service to most of the parish’s residents.
At a press conference two days after the storm, Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng told residents — many listening via radio or watching via phone — that some of them would have their lights back on before nightfall, but cautioned that many should prepare for another dark night.
“Yesterday and the remainder of today, of course, the focus is on critical infrastructure,” she said. “We hope that today more of the private businesses and residents will get turned on as well.”
Entergy crews began doing some repair work almost immediately after the storm passed Wednesday night, using a process known as “field switching” to move power through different parts of the parish’s electrical grid to bypass damaged lines.
But the majority of the work needs on-the-ground repair crews, which adds extra complications after a storm. Generally, assessment crews known as scouts visit damaged areas and determine what needs fixing as well as any hazards such as tree branches or debris that could impact the repair work.
That pre-repair check needs to be fully completed before linemen are able to come out to work.
“Half of that damage assessment was done… Thursday,” Sheng said. “We’re going to continue work through the weekend.”
Speaking next to her, Gov. John Bel Edwards urged patience as the lights slowly come back on.
“There’s just not much you can say that brings comfort to people when the lights are out, other than ‘I can assure you that these companies are working very, very hard,'” Edwards said.
In some other nearby parishes, Friday morning brought sharp decreases to the number of customers without power; in Orleans Parish, the number dropped below 100,000 customers for the first time since Wednesday.
But Jefferson Parish still had more than 150,000 reported outages Friday morning.
“Lots of generators have bene purchased, you can hear them in your neighborhoods,” said FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor.
He urged residents to take precautions with downed power lines and generators, both of which can be deadly.
Already, an Orleans Parish man was electrocuted by a downed power line from Zeta. And several of the deaths attributed to hurricanes that struck west of the metro area were attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning from improperly ventilated generators.
Entergy officials have said they hope to have most power restored by the end of the weekend, but some of the hardest-hit areas could take up to 10 days to see lights.