Rescuers set out in hundreds of boats and helicopters to reach people trapped by floodwaters Monday, and utility repair crews rushed in after a furious Hurricane Ida swamped the Louisiana coast and ravaged the electrical grid in the stifling, late-summer heat. Residents living amid the maze of rivers and bayous along the state’s Gulf Coast retreated desperately to their attics or roofs and posted their addresses on social media with instructions for search-and-rescue teams on where to find them. Four Louisiana hospitals were damaged and 39 medical facilities were operating on generator power, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said. Officials said they were evacuating scores of patients to other cities.
The hurricane blew ashore on the 16th anniversary of Katrina, the 2005 storm that breached New Orleans’ levees, devastated the city, and was blamed for 1,800 deaths. At least this time, New Orleans appeared to escape the catastrophic flooding city officials had feared. And the governor said Louisiana’s levees, heavily overhauled since Katrina, “performed extremely well.” But he said the storm still inflicted “tremendous damage” to homes and businesses. As the storm continued to make its way inland with torrential rain and shrieking winds, it was blamed for at least two deaths — a motorist who drowned in New Orleans, and a person hit by a falling tree outside Baton Rouge. With many roads impassable and cellphone service knocked out in places, the full extent of its fury was still coming into focus. Christina Stephens, a spokesperson for Gov. John Bel Edwards, said that given the level of destruction, “We’re going to have many more confirmed fatalities.”
More than 1 million customers in Louisiana and Mississippi — including all of New Orleans — were left without power as Ida, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the U.S. mainland, pushed through on Sunday and early Monday before weakening into a tropical storm. The governor’s office said damage to the power grid appeared “catastrophic” — dispiriting news for those left without refrigeration or air conditioning during the dog days of summer, with highs forecast in the mid-80s to close to 90 by midweek. The damage was so extensive that officials warned it could be weeks before the power grid was repaired.
NHC 4 PM CDT: #Ida is now a Tropical Depression as it moves over Mississippi with sustained winds down to 35 mph.
— WeatherNation (@WeatherNation) August 30, 2021
The governor’s office said over 2,200 evacuees were staying in 41 shelters as of Monday morning, a number expected to rise as people were rescued or escaped from flooded homes. The governor’s spokesperson said the state will work to move people to hotels as soon as possible so that they can keep their distance from one another. “This is a COVID nightmare,” Stephens said, adding: “We do anticipate that we could see some COVID spikes related to this.”
"Conditions are still severe throughout the city of New Orleans," Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Monday after about a million customers were without power following Hurricane Ida. Follow for updates. https://t.co/JaCG6pGVE3 pic.twitter.com/KlFGxfOT7f
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 30, 2021
Interstate 10 between New Orleans and Baton Rouge — the main east-west route along the Gulf Coast — was closed because of flooding, with the water reported to be 4 feet deep at one spot, officials said. Preliminary measurements showed Slidell, Louisiana, got at least 15.7 inches of rain, while New Orleans received nearly 14 inches, forecasters said. Other parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, Alabama and Florida got 5 to 11 inches.
[This is a continuing and evolving story, please check back for updates]