NEW ORLEANS — When Stephanie Crier emerged from her New Orleans apartment last week after searching for Hurricane Ida, she was relieved to find that the storm hadn’t flooded the city or left catastrophic devastation comparable to Hurricane Katrina. . But it has only gotten worse since then.
Her house has been without power for almost a week. Trying to fall asleep in the heat is torture, said Ms Crier, 60, and had to get up and wash in the dark with cold water to get through the night.
As forecasters warned of dangerously high temperatures over the weekend, Ms. Crier worries about taking care of her mother, who is 81, and returning to her apartment after finding short-term refuge with a friend.
“It’s a bit unbearable,” said Mrs Crier while sitting on a folding chair at a gym that the city had converted into an air-conditioned cooling center. “If I could find a place to actually lay down and stretch out, I could sleep all day and wake up the next day.”
Nearly a week after Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, the city of New Orleans is withering in unrelenting heat. About 70 percent of the city’s electric customers had no power on Saturday for the sixth day in a row. Many gas stations and convenience stores are closed. In the streets neglected piles of garbage pile up. Amid it all, the sun has continued to burn, with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees each for the past four days and the heat index reaching 103. The number of visitors to the cooling center who visited Ms. Crier on Saturday nearly quadrupled between Wednesday and Friday. .
“We’re definitely seeing more desperation on the streets,” said Nate Mook, who runs the World Central Kitchen, a disaster relief charity. that’s 25,000 meals a day in and around New Orleans.
Entergy, the troubled utility company that provides electricity to much of Louisiana, has vowed to power nearly all New Orleans residents by Wednesday, which would be 10 days after many people’s lights went out.
But local officials said each passing day made the situation more dire.
“Now that we get to this point in five or six days, we’re starting to see the older and vulnerable populations — the heat is starting to have an impact,” said Collin Arnold, the director of the New Orleans emergency response agency. “It’s kind of a race against the clock.”
On Saturday, about 500 people were evacuated to electricity-powered shelters in central and northern Louisiana. A 250-bed federal medical facility opened at the New Orleans convention center to relieve nearby hospitals, which were overburdened by Covid-19 patients to accommodate those struggling from the heat.
Many New Orleans residents have been sitting on their porches or bending over all day, dousing themselves every few hours with snakes and chairs on the street to follow the shadows. When the city gets pitch dark every night around 8pm, many stay out for the wind, with children playing with flashlights on sidewalks while parents cool off and wonder aloud with neighbors when the power will come back on.
Many are in urgent need of help. Ms Crier said the store near her home was asking $5 for a bag of ice and she was concerned about how long she would be able to keep food in her cooler. She works as a concession manager at the Superdome, the stadium where the New Orleans Saints play, but the team has moved its September 12 opening game to Florida because of the storm.
At the refrigeration center, Ms. Crier was waiting to meet with Federal Emergency Management Agency staff about the $500 in emergency aid the agency is paying to some of the storm’s survivors, but she was told she was ineligible. She planned to use the money to leave the city and buy a hotel – with electricity and air conditioning – for her and her mother.
With no electricity, the storm has made it difficult to get gas, hampering the supply chains that help some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.
John Proctor, the director of food service at the New Orleans Mission, said the charity spent more than $1,000 each day on fuel just to power generators at its three locations, where it shelters more than 300 people. Every day, a team drives into Mississippi to load tanks of diesel and gas, he said.
“We’re days away from power,” Mr. Proctor said. “We’re in a tough situation, the entire New Orleans metropolitan area — the lack of power, the smell of garbage.”
Not far away, under US Highway 90 along the edge of the city’s Warehouse District, the roar of motorcycles and cars echoes through a makeshift neighborhood lined with dozens of tents, mattresses, and blankets. Many of those living under the highway had been doing this for months before the hurricane, and while they said some things stayed the same — there were no air conditioners or refrigerators to get lost — there were also big differences.
The shops and bus stops where people used the toilets are now closed and the city has not cleared the portable toilets under the highway that are now full of rubbish. And in the days following the storm, many of the generous citizens and church workers who regularly handed in food were unable to reach them.
Pastor Joycelyn Santee, who regularly delivers supplies to residents here, said she was unable to return to the area under the bridge for several days after the storm because her home was out of power and she had to provide for her own family. But she was determined to return, and she and her team arrived Saturday with suitcases full of toilet paper, bags of ice, toothpaste, deodorant, food and more.
“We’re doing what we can,” said Mrs. Santee. “This is what we do.”