Hurricane Ida hit the coast Sunday as one of the most powerful storms to ever hit the U.S., knocking out all of New Orleans, blowing up roofs on buildings, and reversing the flow of the Mississippi River as it plunged. from the Louisiana coast to one of the most important industrial corridors in the country.
The hurricane was blamed for at least one death. The Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook that deputies responded to a Prairieville home on a report of someone injured by a fallen tree. The person, who was not identified, was pronounced dead. Prairieville is a suburb of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. capital city.
The power outage in New Orleans increased the city’s vulnerability to flooding and left hundreds of thousands of people without air conditioning and refrigeration in the sweltering summer heat.
Ida, a Category 4 storm, struck on the same date Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana and Mississippi 16 years earlier, making landfall about 45 miles west of where Category 3 Katrina first made landfall. Ida’s 230 kph winds tied it for the fifth-strongest hurricane to ever hit the continental U.S. It plunged hours later into a Category 2 storm with peak winds of 165 kph as it crawled inland, its eye about 40 miles west-northwest of New Orleans.
‘The worst possible path for a hurricane’
Significant flooding was reported Sunday night in LaPlace, a community adjacent to Lake Pontchartrain, forecasters in New Orleans said. Many people took to social media to call for boat rescues as the water rose.
Rising ocean flooded the barrier island of Grand Isle when it made landfall just to the west at Port Fourchon. Ida made landfall for the second time about two hours later near Galliano. The hurricane hit the wetlands of the southern tip of Louisiana, with more than 2 million people living in and around New Orleans and Baton Rouge under threat.
“This is going to be much stronger than what we usually see and, frankly, if I were to chart the worst possible path for a hurricane in Louisiana, it would be something very, very much like what we are seeing,” said the governor. John Bel Edwards told The Associated Press.
The entire city of New Orleans was without power Sunday night, according to city officials. The city’s power provider Entergy confirmed that the only power in the city came from generators, the city’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness said on Twitter. The message included a screenshot that cited “catastrophic transmission damage” from the power outage.
The city relies on Entergy for backup power for the pumps that remove stormwater from city streets. Rain from Ida is expected to test that pump system.
More than 1 million customers were without power in two southern states affected by Ida: more than 930,000 in Louisiana and 28,000 in Mississippi, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks outages across the country.
Residents were told to duck
Authorities said Ida’s rapid escalation from a few thunderstorms to a massive hurricane in just three days left no time to organize a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans’ 390,000 residents. Mayor LaToya Cantrell urged residents who remain in the city Sunday to “take shelter.”
Marco Apostolico said he felt safe weathering the storm at his home in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, one of the city’s worst-hit neighborhoods when levees failed and released a torrent of floodwater during Katrina.
His house was one of those rebuilt with the help of actor Brad Pitt to withstand hurricane force winds. But the memory of Katrina still hung over the last storm.
“Obviously it’s a lot of heavy feelings,” he said. “And yes, potentially terrifying and dangerous.”
Ida’s worst-hitting region includes major petrochemical sites and ports, which could suffer major damage. It is also an area that is already recovering from the resurgence of COVID-19 infections due to low vaccination rates and the highly contagious delta variant.
New Orleans hospitals planned to weather the storm with their beds nearly full, as similarly stressed hospitals elsewhere had little room for evacuated patients. And shelters for those fleeing their homes carried an additional risk of becoming hotbeds of inflammation for new infections.
‘Many people are going to take the test’
Comparisons to Katrina’s landfall on August 29, 2005 weighed heavily on residents preparing for Ida. Katrina was blamed for 1,800 deaths as it led to levee ruptures and catastrophic flooding in New Orleans. Hurricane-force winds from Ida spread to 80 kilometers from the eye of the storm, or about half the size of Katrina, and a New Orleans infrastructure official stressed that the city is in a “very different place than it was. 16 years ago”.
The levee system has been massively overhauled since Katrina, said Ramsey Green, deputy chief administrative officer for infrastructure, before the worst of the storm hit. While water may not penetrate the levees, Green said that if forecasts of up to 50 centimeters of rain turn out to be true, the city’s neglected and underfunded network of pumps, underground pipes and surface canals are likely can’t keep up.
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has been in contact with more than 1,500 oil refineries, chemical plants and other sensitive facilities and will respond to any reported oil spills or contamination leaks, agency spokesman Greg Langley said. He said the agency would deploy three mobile air monitoring labs after the storm passes to sample, analyze and report any threats to public health.
Louisiana’s 17 oil refineries account for nearly a fifth of U.S. refining capacity, and its two liquefied natural gas export terminals ship about 55% of the nation’s total exports, according to the Information Administration. US Energy Department Government statistics show that 95% of oil and gas production in the Gulf Coast region was shut down when Ida made landfall on Sunday, according to energy company S&P Global Platts.
Louisiana is also home to two nuclear power plants, one near New Orleans and another about 27 miles northwest of Baton Rouge.
President Joe Biden approved emergency declarations for Louisiana and Mississippi prior to Ida’s arrival. He said Sunday that the country was praying for the best for Louisiana and would put all its “power behind the rescue and recovery effort” once the storm passes.
Edwards warned his state to prepare for potentially weeks of recovery.
“Many, many people are going to be tested in ways that we can only imagine today,” the governor told a news conference.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism