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Power company re-enters New Orleans

Gulf Coast utility companies are working to restore power for more than 1 million customers whose power was knocked out Monday by Hurricane Katrina.
/ Source: Reuters

Utility operator Entergy Corp. will re-enter New Orleans Sunday with National Guard escorts to begin assessing damage caused by Hurricane Katrina and subsequent floods, the company said.

The company also confirmed that it had partially restored electricity to the crucial Louisiana Offshore Oil Port late on Friday, letting LOOP operate at 75 percent capacity. The company said it would install a generator at a second facility, bringing it back on by late next week and restoring the LOOP to full capacity.

In a statement late Saturday night, the company said its crews would return to the city first-thing Sunday morning, though it said for security reasons it could not say precisely where the crews would be working.

As of late Saturday Entergy had restored power to nearly 500,000 customers across its service area, though the company has repeatedly warned that in the hardest-hit areas, recovery could take many weeks.

The delay, Entergy says, is caused not only by the inaccessibility of some areas due to Katrina-related damage, but also by corrosion to vital systems due to being soaked in slightly salty floodwaters.

Because of the damage to New Orleans, Entergy said on Sunday it will set up a temporary corporate headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi, the headquarters of both its nuclear subsidiary and its emergency operations center. But the company stressed the move out of New Orleans was not permanent.

“We intend to return home,” J. Wayne Leonard, Entergy’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Another strongly affected utility, Mississippi Power, said Sunday it has been able to restore service to more than 36 percent of its customers.

Work continued Sunday to try and restore service in the most affected areas, including Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian. Mississippi Power is a unit of Southern Co.