The "vast majority" of customers in the greater Baton Rouge area will have power restored by Wednesday next week, the head of Entergy said Thursday. But he cautioned that that estimate does not apply to Ascension and Livingston parishes, where damage is greater and assessments are further behind.
"Most of the customers will be on,” Entergy Louisiana CEO Phillip May told reporters Thursday morning.
When he says "greater Baton Rouge," he said he's including Port Allen and Zachary.
"We are more than 80% complete with our damage assessment in East Baton Rouge Parish, so that gives us the confidence to be able to say that," May said.
The Entergy CEO's limited estimate was less than the parish-by-parish restoration estimates regulators said Wednesday that expected from utility companies affected by Hurricane Ida. Those estimates would then be shared quickly with customers.
Utilities had reduced to about 180,000 the number of customers out of power in the the Baton Rouge metro area by Thursday morning. That was about 75,000 fewer than Monday, the day after the storm. Less than half of the customers in the region now lack power, down from about 66% Monday.
Because each customer could be a family or a large business, the number of people impacted by the outages is greater than the number of accounts used in those figures.
Entergy reported late Thursday afternoon that about 118,000 of its customers in East Baton Rouge, Ascension and Livingston were still without power. That's almost 30,000 fewer outages than the utility was showing late Wednesday afternoon.
Demco, which also serves much of the Baton Rouge metro area, had its outage map back online Thursday, and by late afternoon it showed that about 50,000 customers in East Baton Rouge, Ascension and Livingston were still without power. That's 20,000 fewer outage than the Demco showed when it last reported outages by parish Tuesday morning.
Demco warned Thursday afternoon that for people in remote area with the most damage, restoration could take two to four weeks. But it said most customers will "see significant progress over the next 48 hours.
Even so, progress can never happen fast enough for those who are suffering.
Terry Smith is resourceful, but after four days without power in sweltering Baton Rouge summer heat, his patience is waning.
Smith, who lives on Main Street north of Mid City, said he wants to see more utility workers in the neighborhood. Adding to his frustration: Electricity was restored days ago in other nearby areas.
"I see no trees down here, no flooding," he said, standing outside his house Thursday afternoon as sweat beaded across his forehead. "No Entergy people, either. I feel like they're just not responding to us."
Progress in Livingston has been much slower than other parishes.
Demco, in an online update Thursday, said power restoration in Livingston "is expected to take weeks for these members." Satsuma, the town of Livingston and Holden suffered particularly extensive damage, the energy cooperative reported.
In the Baton Rouge region, Pointe Coupee and West Baton Rouge parishes had almost everyone's power restored Thursday morning and West Feliciana Parish, which still had significant outages Wednesday, was close behind. East Feliciana Parish also had fewer than 3,000 outages, half of where the parish stood after the storm. St. Helena Parish, however, remained almost completely in the black with little evident progress since the storm hit.
East Baton Rouge Parish has opened up several sites to provide food, water, ice and other necessities while power companies try to restore power.
In Thursday's call to reporters, May also acknowledged that Entergy's outage map has been running behind, hampered by internal communications issues but also the issues with cell and internet service that much of south Louisiana has been undergoing since Ida hit Louisiana on Sunday.
"The more narrowly you zoom into that map the more that latency becomes apparent," May said.
"If you see that your lights are off (on the map) and they have been restored," he added, "it may be a little time before your map indicates that."
Lea Skene contributed to this story.
Utility crews have cut the number of power customers without electric service to less than 200,000 in the core of the Baton Rouge metro area.