NEW ORLEANS – As the remnants of Hurricane Isaac pushed their way up the Mississippi valley on Saturday, spinning off severe thunderstorms and at least four tornadoes, some on the Gulf Coast were impatient with the pace of restoring power days after the storm dragged through the region.
While New Orleans streets were bustling again and workers were returning to offshore oil rigs, thousands of evacuees couldn’t return home to flooded low-lying areas of Louisiana and more than 400,000 sweltering electricity customers in the state remained without power.
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service said two tornadoes touched down in rural areas of north-central Illinois and at least two touched down in rural southeast Missouri. There were no reports of damage in Illinois, and Missouri officials said some power lines caught on fire.
By midday Saturday, the storm had dumped up to 5 inches of rain in parts of Illinois. And the National Weather Service said it was bringing more rain and some drought relief to parts of the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys.
In Louisiana, the number without power was down from more than 900,000. However, in heavily populated Jefferson Parish near New Orleans, parish President John Young said Entergy Corp. was too slow in restoring electricity.
“I don’t see boots on the ground,” said Young, who complained that he has seen repair trucks sitting idle in a staging area and fielded calls from residents and business owners complaining about a lack of progress.
“We’ve restored about 45 percent of our customers in about a day and a half,” Entergy spokesman Chanel Lagarde said Saturday. He added that crews have come in from 24 states. “In many situations, crews have driven all day and have worked their 16-hour day and have to rest for the day.”
As of Saturday night, the company was reporting about 270,000 outages, most in Jefferson and Orleans parishes.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said he too was eager to get power back on. “Like everybody else, my patience is wearing thin,” he said.
On Saturday afternoon, St. Tammany Parish officials ordered a mandatory evacuation of areas south of the Pearl River diversion canal, for fear a lock on a canal will fail. Parish authorities said the order could affect anywhere from several hundred to 2,000 residents in the rural area north of Slidell, which is across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates the lock. Parish spokeswoman Suzanne Parsons Stymiest said the parish got permission from the corps to relieve pressure on the structure by opening a valve that will allow a controlled flow of water through it.
Parts of coastal Plaquemines Parish, where thousands were evacuated, remained under water. The National Weather Service has said Isaac dumped anywhere from 10 to 20 inches of rain on south Louisiana and south Mississippi.