Frustration is growing for Baton Rouge residents who have been without power for days as cold weather lingers in the area following this week’s ice storm.
While power is restored for a majority of DEMCO and Entergy customers in the greater Baton Rouge area, outages are ongoing in some areas as temperatures dipped below freezing again Thursday night.
The Baton Rouge mayor's office is opening a shelter of last resort as cold weather and power outages persist in the parish.
The Rouzan neighborhood of Baton Rouge hummed with the sound of generators Thursday afternoon as its residents reached their fourth day without power. But not every resident owned a generator — 35-year-old Ben Relle and his wife were dealing with 40 degree temperatures inside their house.
“The first couple of days you give (Entergy) the benefit of the doubt just because roads were pretty hard to pass and they’ve got these big trucks,” Relle said. “But getting to this point now and we haven’t seen a truck yet, which is for sure kind of frustrating.”
Relle and his neighbors have been relying on social media for updates on when power would return and cited a lack of communication from Entergy as his main source of frustration, he said.
“We’re just not getting updates,” Relle said. “It’s impossible to get through to anybody. We’re getting updates but they’re just generalized.”
A “vast majority” of remaining outages in East Baton Rouge should be restored by late Thursday, Entergy spokesman Brandon Scardigli said in an email. There were 10,103 Entergy customers without power as of Thursday morning, according to Entergy’s website.
“We anticipate that everyone who can safely accept power who lost it during Monday’s storm will have it restored by (Thursday night),” Scardigli said.
For those who thought their January and February utility bills were high, wait until March and April.
Just over 2,000 DEMCO customers were still without power as of Thursday afternoon, according to the company’s website. All customers should have their power restored by sometime Friday or Saturday, said David Latona, vice president of marketing and member services for DEMCO.
“We feel like we’re making great progress,” Latona said. “We started with the 39,529 outages Monday morning and made great progress in the early morning hours then. We’ve seen that consistent throughout this restoration.”
When the power at LaKendra Selders home went out Monday, she thought it would be restored in a few hours as the winter storm worsened.
But some Entergy customers said they were frustrated with the communication they were receiving from the company about their outages.
Malcolm Veazie, a 56-year-old resident of Stratford Place, had been without power since Monday morning. He said Entergy’s outage map showed power had been restored in his neighborhood Thursday afternoon -- but it wasn't.
Veazie owns a portable generator he ran for lights in the evenings but said he was worried his neighbors who were staying in hotels or with family would return to their homes expecting there to be electricity.
“Why are they saying it's on?” Veazie wondered. “I don’t get it. I think they’re just trying to convince somebody that their performance is better than it is.”
When Veazie tried to call the company to report the discrepancy, he said he was unable to get through to anyone.
"Four days ago when I initially called Entergy, they were manning the phone lines and actually accepting calls,” Veazie said. “(Thursday) you just get a menu that doesn’t let you talk to anybody, so I can’t even tell them their map is wrong. If they think it’s repaired, then they’re going to move on to somewhere else and they’re going to forget about us.”
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Outside crews assisting Entergy with repairing outages in the region are not tied into Entergy’s systems, which can create discrepancies between when outages are actually repaired and when the completion is displayed on Entergy’s outage map, Entergy Louisiana Vice President of Distribution Operations John Hawkins said Wednesday.
“We continue experiencing a delay in reflecting restoration status on the outage map, causing temporary discrepancies in information presented,” Scardigli wrote Thursday, adding that the company was working to fix the issue.
Entergy customers still without power in an area where the outage is not displayed on the map should contact Entergy to report the outage, Scardigli said.
Some of those without power were trying to think on the bright side.
“It sucks for so many more people than we have it,” Relle said. “We’re lucky enough we have friends with power and natural gas, so I’m running the fireplace right now. We could have it so much worse.”