Entergy Louisiana said that Ida, which made landfall as a category-4 storm south of New Orleans last week, had wreaked more destruction to the grid than Hurricanes Katrina, Delta and Zeta combined.
Hurricane Ida is the joint-fifth strongest storm ever to make landfall on US mainland. It lashed the region with winds of up to 150mph (240kph), heavy rain and several feet of storm surge on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
The storm caused damage to more than 30,000 utility poles, nearly 35,000 spans of wire and 5,600 transformers. It knocked out power to more than 900,000 households across southeast Louisiana.
The company reported that Ida’s damage to utility poles is nearly double that of Hurricane Laura which slammed into the area last year.
“We’re seeing twice as much damage as what we had with Laura,” said Joe Book, senior manager of distribution engineering for Entergy.
“We’ve never seen anything this large. Even with Katrina, the damage was extended to multiple states. With Ida, nearly all of the damage is here in Louisiana.”
While the company estimates that some parishes will have power restored this week for other worse-affected areas, it could be closer to the end of September.
Thousands of residents now face more weeks in the dark and without air conditioning as high temperatures continue in the state. The National Weather Service reported that highs will reach the upper 80s on Monday.
Entergy said that the biggest challenge was replacing more than 24,000 utility poles which carry power to businesses and neighbourhoods.
Flooding, debris and damage to roads mean it can be difficult for crews to quickly replace these poles in remote areas. The company reported that it has drafted in thousands of extra workers from across the US.
Nearly 350,000 customers are already back online, the company reported.
President Joe Biden travelled to St John the Baptist Parish on Friday to meet with local officials and get a closer look at damage from Ida in one of the hardest-hit areas of Louisiana.
“Hurricane Ida didn’t care if you were a Democrat or Republican, rural or urban. This destruction is everywhere. And it’s a matter of life and death, and we’re all in this together,” President Biden said.
The president is scheduled to visit New York and New Jersey on Tuesday after dozens of people died in both states following historic rainfall from Ida.
Several factors linked to the climate crisis including global sea-level rise and hotter ocean temperatures are helping to fuel these more destructive storms, scientists say.
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading authority on climate science, found that storms with sustained higher wind speeds – in the Category 3-5 range – have likely increased in the past 40 years.