This op-ed was originally published in the Washington Post.
Ask just about any New Orleanian to name the most exasperating thing about the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, and you’ll get the same answer. It isn’t the floodwater. Or the roof damage. It’s something more familiar but equally as threatening to life, health and property: power failure.
This week, Entergy, Louisiana’s largest power company, warned customers to brace for several days or even weeks without power. That means no light, no microwave oven, no refrigerator — and getting by on candles and canned food. It means no air conditioning amid an often-triple-digit heat index, no computer and no Internet, unless you can get online with a smartphone — which you don’t have power to charge. Gas stations are closed because electric pumps can’t pump. In some neighborhoods, toilets don’t flush because sewage plants have conked out.
The problem started soon after Ida made landfall, when all eight of our region’s high-voltage transmission lines failed. In one instance, a 400-foot-tall transmission tower supporting power lines spanning the length of more than 10 football fields across the Mississippi River crumpled like a foil candy wrapper.