September 29, 2008 / 7:24 PM / 9 years ago

Some 145,000 Texans lack power 2 weeks after Ike

HOUSTON, Sept 29 (Reuters) - About 145,000 CenterPoint Energy Inc (CNP.N) customers in Texas remained without power Monday, 16 days after Hurricane Ike hit the Gulf Coast before cutting a destructive path all the way to New York.

Power to about 2 million CenterPoint homes and businesses has been restored as the company said it completed major repairs to its transmission, substation and distribution infrastructure.

“In two weeks, we reinstalled tens of thousands of feet of power lines that took us decades to build,” said Kenny Mercado, CenterPoint’s senior vice president of electric operations.

Some of the 9,000 workers that came from other parts of Texas and dozens of other states, have started heading home, said CenterPoint spokesman Floyd LeBlanc.

A number of those workers had been away from home since Sept 1, first traveling to areas damaged by Hurricane Gustav which struck Louisiana before coming to Texas after Ike made landfall.

LeBlanc said CenterPoint still has “more than enough” workers to continue the job of installing transformers and reconnecting single meters to restore power to the remaining customers.

The company’s supply of transformers was limited briefly, LeBlanc said, when a shipment got delayed.

The restoration process “took a lot of logistics, a lot of materials,” LeBlanc said. “Not many utilities have had 2.1 million customers knocked out in a single event.”

CenterPoint estimated the total cost for Ike’s restoration would be in the range of $350 million to $500 million. The company said in a federal filing it would defer uninsured costs related to the storm and seek legislation in Texas to allow for the securitization of storm restoration costs.

In addition, the company said it expected the outages would hurt its earnings for the third quarter and full year, primarily due to reduced revenue. CenterPoint, however, said it could not determine the exact amount of that impact at this time.

CenterPoint said Ike knocked out service to 2.15 million, or 99 percent, of its 2.26 million Texas customers.

Ike hit the Galveston-Houston area as a Category 2 storm with winds of 110 mph on Sept 13. Overall, the storm cut power to more than 7.7 million homes and businesses in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia as it marched from Texas to the Northeast from Sept. 12 to 19.

Reporting by Eileen O'Grady; Editing by David Gregorio

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