September 19, 2008 / 6:44 PM / 11 years ago

Two million still without power after Hurricane Ike

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Two million U.S. homes and businesses on Friday were still without electricity six days after Hurricane Ike landed in Texas before cutting a destructive path all the way to New York.

About 1.5 million Texas power customers were not connected, followed by Ohio with 324,000 out and Kentucky where 130,000 had no electricity, the U.S. Department of Energy said.

It will by October before some Texans can re-energize refrigerators and lights, utilities said.

The DOE figure is down from about 2.4 million on Thursday.

CenterPoint Energy, the power provider for most of the Houston metro area, said it had restored to 44 percent of the 2.15 million customers that lost power due to Ike, up from 41 percent restored on Thursday.

Ike made landfall in Galveston, where only a few key services are reconnected, like hospitals. CenterPoint has been unable to give an estimate of when homes and businesses can be restored and city officials are urging residents to stay away.

Near and in Houston, the task of restoring power to major transmission lines and substations was completed by Thursday and now CenterPoint has 4,000 workers trimming trees and another 4,000 workers on lines that distribute power to residences and businesses.

Kenny Mercado, CenterPoint senior vice president for electric operations, said linemen and tree trimmers will “sweep entire neighborhoods” to restore power.

Ike hit the Texas coast early September 13, and after causing hurricane strength gusts of 75 mph (120 kph) as far north as Ohio. It also cut power in Pennsylvania and New York.

In all, more than 4 million homes and businesses lost lights because of Ike.

Entergy Texas, which serves a larger geographic area but less customers in Southeast Texas than CenterPoint, said it had restored power to about half of the 392,300 customers that lost electricity, from 35 percent on Thursday.

Both CenterPoint and Entergy reported 99 percent of customers without power on Sunday after Ike, a strong category 2 storm with winds around 100 mph (160 kph) and a significant storm surge that wiped out entire neighborhoods on historic Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula and severely flooded areas near Sabine Pass in Texas.

CenterPoint said it hopes to have as many as 75 percent of its customers back online by September 23, this coming Tuesday.

Entergy said that by Friday it had restored almost all of the 179,000 Arkansas customers that lost power some 59,000 in Louisiana were also reconnected.

Hardest-hit areas, including Beaumont, may not get service before October 6, Entergy said.

FirstEnergy said 97 percent of the 1 million customers without power in northern Ohio and western Pennsylvania had been reconnected by Friday.

Duke Energy also had about 1 million power customers in southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky without service at the peak of the storm. By Friday, all but about 127,000 had been reconnected, Duke said.

AEP Ohio at one point had about 650,000 customers without power and by Friday had more than 100,000 in and near Columbus out, its website showed.

Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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