Federal aid, insurance money key to Hurricane Ida recovery, according to The Times-Picayune Power Poll

September 13, 2021 6:00am
Photo of Drew Broach
New Orleans, LA Correspondent

Half of respondents give Entergy good grade for response to power outage

With power being steadily restored 12 days after Hurricane Ida blacked out all southeast Louisiana, the biggest challenge facing the region is obtaining money for the recovery, according to The Times-Picayune Power Poll.

One quarter of respondents to this week’s survey said federal financial aid is key, and one quarter said insurance money. Fewer identified the biggest challenge as reopening schools, recalling employees or COVID-19.

Bottom line: We seem to have the determination but need the cash, just like we did in 2005.

“After Katrina, our goal was a higher, stronger levee system,” said Jefferson Parish Council member Jennifer Van Vrancken. “After Ida, we need to focus on hardening the power grid and communication network so we are not left in this predicament again.”

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“Sixteen years ago after Hurricane Katrina, 40,000-50,000 relocated families had to find a place for their kids to go to school," said Sandy Rosenthal, founder and president of levees.org. This year, again, I worry about getting kids back to school now with the dual challenge of a late start … plus the delta variant.”

Conducted online Monday through Thursday, the Power Poll survey is not a scientific inquiry. But because it asks questions of the top Jefferson and Orleans parish influencers in business, politics, arts, media, nonprofits and community affairs, it does afford a fascinating and non-partisan insight into the thoughts and opinions of those who steer the region. Of 354 Power Poll members surveyed this week, 76 voted for a participation rate of 21%.

On Aug. 29, Ida’s threat was obvious, a Category 4 hurricane aiming west of New Orleans, putting the metro area on the storm’s most dangerous side. About half of the survey respondents said they evacuated before it arrived.

Towns closest to the coast were almost flattened and low-lying areas were flooded for days, but the most widespread and lingering effect was loss of commercial electricity for days on end. Residents cheered individual powerline repair crews, and slightly more than half of the Power Poll respondents gave Entergy an A or B grade for its response.

“Each storm is different. Ida was so slow moving and so powerful it caught many off guard,” said Capella Consulting principal Jack Capella. “Local government was not prepared for the extent of damage. Entergy was not at fault for downed transmission lines but should have had a better backup plan.”

As for the government response, once again Power Poll respondents graded Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration highest, as they did early in the coronavirus pandemic. They gave state government a weighted score of 2.24, compared to 2.12 for local government in Jefferson and Orleans parishes and 1.43 for President Joe Biden’s administration

Writing on Labor Day, Ruthie Frierson, founder of Citizens for One Greater New Orleans, said: “What a perfect time to pay tribute to all of the workers who helped keep our city running and provided needed services in so many needed ways. They showed courage, fortitude and persistence in their work; that benefited us all. Thank you also to the many workers from other states who worked and work tirelessly to bring back our city and region. So grateful and appreciative!”

“One thing that's improved considerably since Hurricane Katrina is the governmental coordination and communication,” said Berni Consulting partner Ryan Berni. “From President Biden and FEMA to the governor to local officials in the metro area, communication has been great - both clear and consistent. The same cannot be said of the private sector companies responding to the disaster (Entergy, AT&T, Cox, etc.).”


Note: The second question on this week’s survey (“Did you leave after Hurricane Katrina?”) was erroneously drafted by your correspondent, who at the time was subsisting on junk food and sleeping in a storm-damaged house with no air conditioning. That’s not an excuse for the error, only an explanation. Thanks are due to Power Poll member Jason Berry for noting the error. The question’s results are not reported here.

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