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Hurricane Ida: One million people in Louisiana without power

Hurricane Ida blow the roof off a Louisiana hospital

A million people are without power in Louisiana from Hurricane Ida, which has been downgraded to a tropical storm.

Ida brought 150mph (240km/h) winds when it made landfall, leaving a trail of destruction through the state before passing into Mississippi.

One person was killed when a tree fell on their home in Ascension Parish, in Louisiana’s Baton Rouge area.

However, the full scale of the destruction will only become clear as the day goes on, officials said.

“Daylight will bring horrific images as the damage is assessed”, tweeted Shauna Sanford, communications director for the Louisiana Governor.

President Joe Biden had previously said Ida would be “life-threatening”, with the National Hurricane Center warning that heavy rain could still cause flooding in parts of the state.

But it seemed that New Orleans’ flood defences, strengthened after Hurricane Katrina killed 1,800 people in 2005, have so far done their job. Mr Edwards said the levees had “for the most part” held – although the storm surge, rain and wind had still had a “devastating” impact across the state.

The president has declared a major disaster in the state, releasing extra funds for rescue and recovery efforts.

Mr Biden said it could take weeks to restore electricity to the more than one million homes in Louisiana that are without power.

Ida gathered strength over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico during the weekend. More than 90% of oil production there has been shut down as a result of the storm.

On Sunday, Ida made landfall south of New Orleans as a category four hurricane – meaning it would cause severe damage to buildings, trees and power lines. As it moves inland, Ida’s winds have dropped to 95mph (153km/h), meaning it is now a category one storm.

There are still fears of storm surges along the coast – which could be as high as 16ft (4.8m), potentially submerging parts of the low-lying coastline.

It’s an eerie feeling to stand in New Orleans as it’s plunged into darkness. And all around the famous French quarter debris and tree branches litter the streets.

Standing outside is painful. The rain pelts you as winds of 70mph make it difficult to stand. Residents for the most part have heeded warnings to stay indoors for the worst of the storm. When you speak to them, they’ll tell you that hurricanes have become a part of their lives. It’s the trade-off they accept for everything else the Big Easy has to offer.

Still, there’s always a fear that the next storm could be “the big one”. Kenneth McGruder has lived in the lower 9th ward for more than 30 years. He evacuated for Hurricane Katrina and, like many others, came back to find his house under water. He is an older man who speaks openly about the trauma that caused.

Ida strengthened so quickly, he felt he didn’t have enough time to leave his home. He trusts the city’s new hurricane infrastructure but again, there’s always that fear.

Covid-19 has also further complicated efforts to keep people safe. Louisiana hospitals are already under pressure from Covid-19, as the state has the third-highest rate of infections in the US.

Normally, hospitals in the predicted path of the hurricane would be evacuated, but this time there are few beds available, even at facilities further inland.

“We don’t have any place to bring those patients. Not in state, not out of state,” Mr Edwards said.

Ida came ashore on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a category three storm when it made landfall.
Since then, billions of dollars have been spent on flood defences, known as levees. So far, the levees have held, though a flash flood warning is in place for New Orleans.

High winds tore part of the roof off a hospital in the town of Cut Off, Louisiana, just inland from the Gulf of Mexico. The hospital said it had suffered “significant damage” but that its patients were safe.

Hurricanes: A guide to the world’s deadliest storms.”
The impact of climate change on the frequency of storms is still unclear, but increased sea surface temperatures warm the air above, making more energy available to drive hurricanes.

As a result, they are likely to be more intense with more extreme rainfall.