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Shortages of supplies and workers to delay damage repairs in US after Hurricane Ida

The hurricane damaged or destroyed more than 22,000 power poles.

Destruction after Hurricane Ida
Destruction after Hurricane Ida
Image: PA

SHORTAGES OF SUPPLIES and workers are likely to delay rebuilding after Hurricane Ida hit the east coast of the US.

Ida slammed into the Gulf Coast of the US, then took its destruction to the Northeast, at a time when building contractors were already grappling with severe shortages of workers and depleted supply chains.

The damage inflicted by Ida has magnified those challenges.

The struggle to find enough skilled workers and materials is likely to drive up costs, complicate planning and delay reconstruction for months.

Joe Sobol, owner of Big Easy Construction in New Orleans, said work like repairing roofs or continuing with scheduled renovations will cost more than usual and take much longer.

Ali Wolf, chief economist at the real estate research firm Zonda, said her expectation “is that it only gets worse from here.”

Lake Charles, Louisiana, 200 miles west of New Orleans, still hasn’t recovered from the damage left when Hurricane Laura tore through the area a year ago.

The challenges facing construction companies stem from the brief but intense recession that hit after the Covid-19 pandemic started in March 2020.

The economy rebounded faster and stronger than expected and businesses of all kinds were caught off-guard by the surge in customer demand.

Workers and supplies were suddenly in short supply and businesses have been scrambling to acquire enough supplies, restock their shelves and recall workers they had furloughed during the recession.

Construction companies have been particularly affected. Among building executives Zonda surveyed last month, 93% complained of supply shortages and 74% said they lacked enough workers, which was before Ida struck.

“Natural disasters do cause a strain on building materials, reconstruction materials and on labour,” Wolf said.

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“The difference today is that the entire supply chain has been battered even before Ida’s occurrence. You really have all these things hitting at the exact same time. Frankly, the last thing the supply chain needed was extra strain.”

Additionally, power is still out in many places and petrol is in short supply.

Full restoration of electricity to some of the hardest-hit areas of Louisiana battered by Hurricane Ida could take until the end of the month, the head of Entergy Louisiana has warned.

At least 16 deaths were blamed on the storm in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Ida damaged or destroyed more than 22,000 power poles, more than previous hurricanes Katrina, Zeta and Delta combined – an impact Entergy president Phillip May called “staggering”.

More than 5,200 transformers failed and nearly 26,000 spans of wire — the stretch of transmission wires between poles — were down.

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