Louisiana officials are requesting caution and cooperation from residents as the recovery from Hurricane Zeta began in earnest Thursday.
“We suffered a hurricane,” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said. “The impacts are real, and we’re just asking for your patience.”
Louisiana has been hit by five named storms this year including three major hurricanes. Most of the injuries and fatalities have come in the aftermath rather than during the storm itself. One Zeta fatality has been reported in Louisiana so far, a 55-year-old man in New Orleans who was electrocuted by downed power lines.
More than 450,000 Louisiana homes and businesses were without electricity Thursday afternoon, including about 125,000 in Orleans Parish. Cantrell said drivers have caused a number of accidents by failing to treat traffic signals without power as four-way stops. She said crews are putting up stop signs at major intersections but can’t cover the entire city.
Damage in Jefferson Parish included a levee breach in Grand Isle, a casino boat in Lafitte that hit a swing bridge, and the structural collapse of an apartment complex, Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng said. Residents of the apartment building have been moved into hotels, she said.
About 172,000 homes and businesses in Jefferson Parish – about 80 percent of all customers – were without power, Sheng said. She said the parish sewer system is working but currently lacks backup power and asked residents not to create more wastewater than necessary by, for example, doing laundry.
Sheng said the parish is opening several parks and fire stations for people who need to recharge their oxygen tanks.
In St. Tammany Parish, about 67,000 customers still lacked power, Parish President Michael Cooper said. As in other parishes, outside utility companies were helping local providers with restoration, he said. No timeline for full restoration has yet been offered.
“It’s not going to be a matter of hours,” Cooper said. “It may be several days before power is restored across our entire parish.”
Zeta moved quickly through the state, which helped limit the amount of rainfall. Congressman Garret Graves also praised the state’s levee system for helping to limit Zeta to a wind event as opposed to a major flooding event. He pledged on behalf of the state’s congressional delegation to ensure federal resources make their way to the state.
Officials said they are prioritizing power restoration to critical infrastructure and polling places. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said his office is working with local elections officials to assess the damage.
“We will have a more thorough grasp of the damage to individual polling places over the next 24-48 hours and we will coordinate with clerks of court and local governing authorities if any emergency polling place relocations are necessary,” he said.