New Orleans Thousands of people who fled Hurricane Gustav forced the city to reluctantly open its doors Wednesday, but nearly
1.2 million homes and businesses across Louisiana were still without electricity and officials said it could take as long as a month to fully restore power.
As residents came home to New Orleans, President Bush returned to the site of one of the biggest failures of his presidency to show that the government had turned a corner since its bungled response to Katrina.
Faced with traffic backups on paths into the city, Mayor Ray Nagin gave up checking ID badges and automobile placards designed to keep residents out until early today.
Those who returned said if the city was safe enough for repair crews and health care workers, it was safe enough for them, too. But back at home, many people had no power and no idea when it might return.
Restoring power was critical to reopening schools, businesses and neighborhoods. Without electricity, gas stations could not pump fuel, and hospitals were running out of fuel for generators.
Some places never lost power, including the Superdome, where the Saints planned to open their regular football season Sunday.
In Jefferson Parish, which also reopened Wednesday, officials reported that most sewage-treatment stations were out of service because there was no power.
The parish urged residents not to flush toilets, wash clothes or dishes, or even take showers out of concern that the system might backup and send sewage flowing in home and businesses.