Louisiana faces long power outages after Hurricane Laura, oil output still low after storm
About 500 electric poles have been damaged or destroyed by the storm in the state
As the cleanup gets underway in Louisiana from Hurricane Laura, the state's governor warned Sunday that a long recovery is ahead as hundreds of thousands still remain without power.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said Sunday at a news conference the Category 4 hurricane, which made landfall Thursday just south of Lake Charles near Cameron, damaged or destroyed about 500 electric poles. Edwards said restoring power will be a "long and difficult process."
“We’re going to be working really, really hard on the power outages, on the water systems, on the housing,” he said at a news conference. "But none of this is going to be easy. It’s not going to happen as quickly as most people would like for sure.”
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According to power outage tracking website poweroutage.us, over 309,000 customers remain without power in Louisiana, with the southwestern portion of the state the most severely impacted. Some 54,000 are still impacted in East Texas.
New Orleans-based Entergy said over the weekend that Laura, the strongest storm to hit Louisiana since 1856, has left severe damage to high-voltage transmission lines and other key infrastructure.
“We expect the recovery to be as difficult and challenging as we have ever faced in the past. Customers should expect extended power outages lasting weeks,” Phillip May, president and CEO of Entergy Louisiana, said in a statement.
In order for neighborhoods to get their power back, it must first be restored to transmission lines and substations, according to the company.
East Texas, which also bore some of the worst impacts from the storm, is equally as affected, according to the company.
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"While progress is being made across our system, a critical priority is to get the first transmission source into Lake Charles re-energized to begin the process of restoring power to some in the area sooner, but for others, it may take weeks," Entergy said.
Crews will have to rebuild hundreds of transmission towers along with resetting downed power poles and lines, clearing debris and assessing damage, said Scott Aaronson, vice president of security and preparedness for the Edison Electric Institute, the association of investor-owned electric companies in the U.S.
More than 29,000 workers from at least 29 states, Washington D.C., and Canada continue to assess the damage and are working to restore power where it's safe to do so, the association said in an email to FOX Business.
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In addition to the continuing power outages, U.S. crude oil output in the Gulf of Mexico remains down about 70%, or about 1.29 million barrels per day, according to data on Sunday by the Department of the Interior.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) said that a total of 139 platforms or drilling rigs in the gulf were unmanned at midday Sunday, down from the 310 that were evacuated Wednesday as Laura approached the coast. BSEE also said natural gas production also remains down nearly 50% after the storm.
Reuters reported Sunday that Exxon began starting its Beaumont, Texas, refinery crude unit after the area was spared the worst from the storm.
The Category 4 hurricane packed 150 mph winds and wrecked the city of Lake Charles, La.
So far 18 deaths in Texas and Louisiana have been attributed to the storm; more than half of those people were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning from the unsafe operation of generators.
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The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent hundreds of workers to the region to help with search and rescue and other efforts.
As of Sunday, more than 52,500 people had applied for FEMA assistance, and the agency had conducted over 200 home inspections and distributed more than $650,000 in assistance, according to Tony Robinson, FEMA's administrator for the region.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.