Hundreds of helicopters and boats ferried rescuers through New Orleans to save people trapped by floodwaters in the wake of Ida, a Category 4 hurricane that battered Louisiana and Mississippi with winds up to 150 miles per hour from Sunday evening into Monday.
Making landfall on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Ida made roads impassable, knocked out cell service and left approximately 1 million residents without power — including all of those in New Orleans — the AP reported Monday.
Officials described the damage to the power grid as “catastrophic” and warned that residents could be without electricity for weeks. Ida toppled a large tower that carries key transmission lines across the Mississippi River, impacting 2,000 miles of transmission lines and more than 200 substations.
One death — a person hit by a falling tree in the Baton Rouge area — has been reported, but given the level of destruction seen so far, the governor’s office expects more fatalities to be confirmed in the coming days.
“For the most part, all of our levees performed extremely well — especially the federal levees — but at the end of the day, the storm surge, the rain, the wind all had devastating impacts,” Governor John Bel Edwards said. “We have tremendous damage to homes and to businesses.”
An analysis by property data firm CoreLogic on Friday estimated that nearly 950,000 homes in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi could be exposed to storm surge damage, including nearly 400,000 single-family residences in New Orleans alone, and another 110,000 in Baton Rouge. Homes threatened by the storm represent a combined reconstruction cost value of more than $220 billion, according to CoreLogic.
In addition to the many homes already impacted by the storm, four hospitals were damaged and almost 40 medical facilities were relying on generators for power. Officials from FEMA said many patients were being evacuated to other cities.
Bel Edwards’ office said more than 2,000 evacuees were staying in 41 different shelters, the AP reported, with that number expected to grow as more people are rescued.
“This is a COVID nightmare,” Christina Stephens, a spokesperson for the governor, said. “We do anticipate that we could see some COVID spikes related to this.”
She added that the state is working to move evacuees to hotels as soon as possible, so they can keep their distance from each other.
The main highway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Interstate 10, was closed down because of flooding, with Slidell, Louisiana reportedly getting 15.7 inches of rain and New Orleans seeing nearly 14 inches.
Almost 5,000 National Guard members, as well as 195 high-water vehicles, 73 boats and 34 helicopters, had been deployed to rescue those stranded due to the flooding. In addition, 30,000 utility workers have come to the state to help restore electricity.
AT&T’s phone system was down across the southeastern part of the state, leaving many — including the governor’s office — without working phones.
The hurricane is expected to make its way up to the Tennessee and Ohio River valleys on Tuesday and the Appalachian region on Wednesday. Washington D.C. should see the remnants of Ida by Thursday. Flooding and mudslides along Ida’s path are possible.
[AP] — Victoria Pruitt