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About 1.2 million customers without power in Hurricane Ida's 'catastrophic' wake

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About 1.2 million customers without power in Hurricane Ida's 'catastrophic' wake

Highlights

Pandemic may slow service restoration

Real-time power prices still strong

Thousands of technicians begin repairs

The extremely powerful Hurricane Ida cut off almost 1.2 million customers from electric service as of about 1 pm CT Aug. 30, and according to Entergy, the largest utility serving the area, "Those in the hardest-hit areas could experience power outages for weeks."

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The resurging coronavirus pandemic may lengthen the repair timeline, Entergy said in a statement.

The affected area lies almost entirely within the Midcontinent Independent System Operator's footprint, where load peaked around 95.5 GW on Aug. 30, compared with a forecast of about 100.9 GW and an average peakload of 105.9 GW for the previous four Mondays in August.

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Despite the weak power demand, real-time locational marginal prices have held up in MISO's Louisiana Hub, at $42.34/MWh around 2 pm CT, compared with on-peak averages of $39.88/MWh for the previous four Mondays in August.

The Intercontinental Exchange on Aug. 30 had no day-ahead trading activity for any MISO South hub, including Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

EFFECTS ON ENTERGY

Between Entergy's utilities in Louisiana and Mississippi, almost 874,000 customers were offline. Cleco had the second-largest number, at more than 102,000 customers offline, and Dixie Electric Membership Corporation came in third with almost 80,000.

The storm made landfall around noon Aug. 29 as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph near Port Fourchon, Louisiana. It was one of the strongest storms to make landfall in Louisiana history.

"As a result of Hurricane Ida's catastrophic intensity, major transmission lines that deliver power into the New Orleans area are currently out of service," Entergy said. One of the transmission lines that fell spans the Mississippi River and had withstood Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"Road closures, flooding and other accessibility challenges due to the storm is affecting our ability to reach some areas of our territory and could delay restoration in those communities," Entergy said.

Entergy had about 11,450 people ready to begin restoring service for customers, but said that "we anticipate mobilizing a storm team of at least 20,000."

PANDEMIC ISSUES

"Along with standard storm preparations, Entergy employees continue navigating the COVID-19 pandemic by taking additional steps," Entergy said. "These include traveling separately if necessary, adjusting crew staging locations and greater use of drones. Due to the additional measures crews must take, restoration may take longer, especially where there are widespread outages."

Clint Robichaux, Cleco manager of distribution operations support, said his company's hardest hit areas were in its southern parishes of St. Mary, St. Tammany and Washington, which is fortunate, as it allows Cleco to direct resources from its Central Louisiana service area to the hardest hit areas.

In addition to Cleco's own workers and contractors, the utility has procured another 2,000 people to help with service restoration.

"There is widespread flooding across southeast Louisiana, so crews will need to utilize equipment like drones, helicopters, airboats and marsh buggies to access areas that are difficult to reach with regular bucket and pickup trucks," Cleco said in a news release.

The Edison Electric Institute reports that more than 25,000 workers from more than 30 states have been mobilized to support power restoration efforts, "following additional safety protocols required by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to keep customers and crews safe."

Utilities with more than 1,000 customers offline due to Hurricane Ida
As of 1 pm CT Aug. 30
Alabama
Alabama Power
10,593
Florida
Florida Power & Light and Gulf Power
1,043
Louisiana
Entergy
834,421
Cleco
102,037
Dixie Electric Membership Corporation
79,777
Washington St. Tammany Electric Cooperative
42,927
Mississippi
Entergy
39,446
Coast Electric Power Association
19,063
Southwest Mississippi Electric Power Association
14,775
Magnolia Electric Power
13,793
Southern Pine Electric
8,346
Mississippi Power
3,636
Pearl River Valley Electric Power Association
2,691
Central Electric Power Association
1,484
Sources: Various utilities plus PowerOutage.us.