Hurricane Ida evacuees urged to begin returning to New Orleans

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With power due back for almost all of New Orleans by next week, Mayor LaToya Cantrell strongly encouraged residents who evacuated because of Hurricane Ida to begin returning home. But outside the city, the prospects of recovery appeared bleaker, with no timeline on power restoration and homes and businesses in tatters.

Six days after Hurricane Ida made landfall, hard-hit parts of Louisiana were still struggling to restore any sense of normalcy. Even around New Orleans, a continued lack of power for most residents made a sultry stretch of summer hard to bear and added to woes in the aftermath of Ida. Louisiana authorities searched Friday for a man they said shot another man to death after they both waited in a long line to fill up at a gas station in suburban New Orleans.

Cantrell said the city would offer transportation starting Saturday to any resident looking to leave the city and get to a public shelter. It already began moving some residents out of senior homes.

At the Renaissance Place senior home Friday, dozens of residents lined up to get on minibuses equipped with wheelchair lifts after city officials said they determined conditions at the facility were not safe and evacuated it.

Reggie Brown, 68, was among those waiting to join fellow residents on a bus. He said residents, many in wheelchairs, have been stuck at the facility since Ida. Elevators stopped working three days ago and garbage was piling up inside, he said. The residents were being taken to a state-run shelter, the mayor's office said.

“I'm getting on the last bus,” Brown said. “I'm able-bodied.”

A phone message for the company that manages the Renaissance site, HSI Management Inc., was not immediately returned.

But Cantrell also encouraged residents to return to the city as their power comes back, saying they could help the relief effort by taking in neighbors and family who were still in the dark. As of Saturday morning, there were more than 690,000 outages in the state, according to PowerOutage.us. Almost all electricity should return by Wednesday, according to Entergy, the company that provides power to New Orleans and much of southeast Louisiana in the storm's path.

“We are saying, you can come home,” Cantrell told a news conference.

The outlook was not as promising south and west of the city, where Ida's fury fully struck. The sheriff's office in Lafourche Parish cautioned returning residents about the difficult situation that awaited them — no power, no running water, little cellphone service and almost no gasoline.

Late Friday, Entergy said its damage assessments across southeast Louisiana were almost complete, and the company posted restoration times for most customers. Some parishes outside New Orleans were battered for hours by winds of 100 mph (160 kph) or more.

President Joe Biden arrived Friday to survey the damage in some of those spots, touring a neighborhood in LaPlace, a community between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain that suffered catastrophic wind and water damage that sheared off roofs and flooded homes.

“We're moving as fast as we can to be able to provide access regardless who your provider was,” Mr. Biden said Friday. He said $100 million has been provided in assistance so far.

“There's nothing political about this,” Mr. Biden said. “It's just simply about saving lives and getting people back up and running and we're in this together and so we're not going to leave any community behind.” 

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