Sixteen years after Katrina to the day, Hurricane Ida struck the coast of Louisiana as a Category 4 storm. While oil, chemical, and plastic companies in the area were able to take routine precautions against pouring water and pounding rain, lingering blackouts in the area may prove to be the more lasting disaster.
According to local CBS news source WAFB, Entergy, the utilities company that supplies all of Orleans Parish’s power, said August 29 that the destruction of a transmission tower brought down all eight electrical transmission lines sourcing New Orleans. Entergy said the loss of outside power led to a load imbalance in the city, which brought down local power generation as well.
As of midday August 30, more than a million people in Louisiana were without power. A statement from Entergy published August 30 said it would likely take days to be able to work out the full extent of the damage to power systems but that “those in the hardest-hit areas could experience power outages for weeks.”
“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.
The Southeastern coast of Louisiana—the toe of the boot-shaped state—is the home to much of the state’s oil and gas production and is also the region hit hardest by the hurricane. According to Greater New Orleans, Inc., a regional economic development serving 10 parishes including and around New Orleans, the greater New Orleans region is home to 7 petroleum refineries and about 10% of U.S. refining capacity.
While oil refiners like Dow and chemical companies like Westlake Chemical shut down their Louisiana manufacturing operations to weather the storm, a persistent loss of power would prevent them from starting up again before power is restored to their factories.