Live Updates: Ida Promises More Destruction As Storm Moves Beyond Louisiana
We're focused today on Ida, which poses a significant threat as it moves inland from the Louisiana coast, even after being downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm. Here's the latest:
Power outages: More than a million people are without power across Louisiana and Mississippi. The utility company in Orleans Parish says some people could be without power for weeks. If you’re relying on a generator, follow these safety guidelines.
COVID threat: Louisiana and Mississippi were already overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases before the storm struck. Now providing care is even more complicated.
Katrina anniversary: The hurricane made landfall 16 years to the day that Katrina hit, and the trauma of that time is still fresh for some. This time, though, the levees are holding.
— The Morning Edition live blog team
(Nell Clark, Dana Farrington, Joe Hernandez and Rachel Treisman)
Louisiana Governor Says Death Toll From Ida Could 'Go Up Considerably'
One person is confirmed dead after Ida swept through Louisiana over the past day, but the state’s governor says he expects the death toll will rise “considerably” in the coming hours.
“I don’t want to tell you what I’m hearing, because what I’m hearing points to a lot more than that. They’re not yet confirmed, and I really don’t want to go there,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards in an interview with NBC’s Today Show this morning.
“We’re going to be getting information throughout the day that I fully expect the confirmed death total to go up considerably,” he added.
Downed power lines and fallen trees in the roads have hampered search and rescue efforts, Edwards said, which are ongoing.
But he added that the levee system held up better than it did during Hurricane Katrina, which occurred 16 years ago to the day.
“The situation in New Orleans, as bad as it is today without the power, would be so much worse,” Edwards said. “All you have to do is go back 16 years and you kind of get a glimpse of what that could’ve been like.”
Katrina Hit New Orleans 16 Years Ago. Ida Hit Yesterday. What's Changed?
Hurricane Ida made landfall as a Category 4 storm in southeast Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2021— exactly 16 years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the same area. Much has changed since Katrina, including how the U.S. handles hurricane infrastructure.
NPR's John Burnett is in New Orleans reporting on Ida and he was also there reporting during Hurricane Katrina. He told Morning Edition's A Martínez that how the two storms will compare is a question on many people's minds in the city. You can listen to the full update on Ida here.
"We interviewed a bunch of folks around the parish yesterday before winds got bad, and they were all just kind of looking at levees and floodwalls asking, 'Are they gonna hold?'"NPR's John Burnett
Preliminary reports seem to show the levees and floodwall did hold during Ida.
Weather-wise, Ida was actually stronger by some measures. Ida's winds reached 150 mph compared to 125 mph during Katrina. But part of what made Katrina so destructive was what its winds did: They pushed a mountain of 20- foot storm surge ahead of it into Louisiana. During Katrina, the federally built levees and floodwall system failed, and 80% of New Orleans was inundated with catastrophic flooding.
In the years since Katrina, the federal government has changed how it builds levees, updating them to try to prevent another disaster.
Katrina was the costliest storm in history; it caused over 1,800 deaths and $100 billion in damage. It's too early to tell what the toll from Ida will be — crews are still surveying the damage — but at least one person is reported to have died. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Monday he expects the death toll to rise "considerably."
During Katrina, as the city sank into chaos, Washington bungled the response.
➡️ Read more on the 2005 storm's lasting human impacts here, from Member station WWNO. Even though much of New Orleans the city was able to rebuild, the storm left some survivors with long-term post-traumatic stress.
One thing that's different now than in 2005: We know more about how climate change creates the conditions for monster storms like Ida.
NPR's Michel Martin spoke with FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell on Weekend All Things Considered about the relationship between climate change and historic storms. Listen here.
"This is definitely our new reality, right? The climate change, climate crisis is the crisis of our generation. And even though we're seeing more frequent and more severe storms, what worries me, too, is this rapid intensification. This is something that we haven't seen in the past," Criswell noted.
Criswell says the path forward is mitigation in the hopes of reducing the storm's impacts. "We need to anticipate what we think these storms might be 10 years from now, 20 years from now — not just here on the coast."
Americans Could Feel Ida's Impact At The Gas Pump
While the damage is most acute there, motorists across the U.S. could feel some effects of the storm when they go to fill up their tanks in the days ahead.
Ida likely took some 13% of U.S. refining capacity offline, AAA estimates: There were nine oil refineries in its path, and at least four preemptively paused their operations.
“Until the power is restored, it’s too early to know the full impact of any damage Ida caused on the oil and gas industry, but motorists regionally can expect price fluctuations leading into Labor Day weekend,” said AAA spokesperson Jeanette McGee said in a release. “Typically, a Category 4 storm could mean three plus weeks before refineries are back to normal operations, while offshore production is more likely to resume this week.”
Colonial Pipeline — which memorably shut down in May after a ransomware attack — shut down two lines that run from Houston to Greensboro, N.C. before the storm, and said it would restore full service after an infrastructure inspection.
"Gas prices nationally, especially in the Southeast and East Coast, will see minimal impact at the pump if the pipeline is down for a matter of hours versus days," AAA added.
AAA is also expecting a reduction in demand immediately following the storm, because of power outages and road closures. Louisiana officials are asking people to avoid unnecessary travel as recovery efforts and damage assessments begin.
It's Not Just Louisiana: Ida Brings Flood And Tornado Warnings As It Moves Inland
After battering Louisiana for hours, Ida has continued to move north and bring brutal conditions to other southern states, including Mississippi and Alabama.
According to the National Hurricane Center, dangerous storm surge and flash flooding continues in parts of southeastern Louisiana as well as southern Mississippi and southern Alabama.
A storm surge warning is in effect from Grand Isle, La., to the Alabama-Florida border, which means there is a “danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the coastline.”
As #Ida moves inland, heavy rainfall and flooding impacts are expected to spread across the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys, the central and southern Appalachians, and Mid-Atlantic through Wednesday. https://t.co/tW4KeGdBFb pic.twitter.com/zlUaWgDGic— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) August 30, 2021
Beyond the rains and high winds, Ida has also created the threat of tornadoes in parts of the South.
A tornado watch is in effect through 4 p.m. central time for parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center said tornado activity had been “muted” so far but had the potential to worsen throughout the day.
Ida may also even strike the northern and central Plains with severe storms bearing large hail and damaging winds.
For those areas where rain and winds have let up, the NWS warns that dangers may still persist. The agency is urging residents not to enter damaged buildings, go near downed power lines or drive through flooded areas.
What One Man Saw As Hurricane Ida Destroyed His Home
Louisiana resident Trevon Gauno filmed the rain and wind whipping through his home in Houma after Hurricane Ida ripped his roof off on Sunday.
In an Instagram post, Gauno said he was in his room when the roof was pulled away by the force of the hurricane. Surveying additional damage to the structure, Gauno said, "Life is bigger than material things." He said that he was able to seek shelter at a relative's home nearby.
As Louisiana Wakes Up, Officials Urge Residents To Stay Off The Roads
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is asking residents to put safety first, follow local instructions and stay off the roads while damage assessments begin.
"As the sun comes out this morning, please remain where you are," he tweeted. "Ida has left many hazards across Louisiana including flooded roadways, debris & downed powerlines."
Troopers began assessing road conditions at first light, according to Louisiana State Police, and are finding many blocked routes and dangerous road conditions. Check the status of roads near you here.
The state's Department of Transportation and Development is asking people to avoid travel unless absolutely necessary. Those who have to hit the road are reminded not to drive around barricades, and to treat intersections without power as four-way stops.
What recovery efforts look like at this stage
Edwards tweeted Monday morning that the state had deployed more than 1,600 personnel to conduct search and rescue.
In Lafourche Parish, officials said deputies had been deployed "in full force" to respond to emergencies, clear roads and search for people in need of help.
While cell service is down and 911 is out, parish officials said provided two numbers to call for known emergencies only. They also noted that "thousands of you have not heard from loved ones in many hours."
A curfew remains in effect, and it is not yet safe for evacuees to return.
"We understand evacuees are anxious to return to survey damage and assist others," they tweeted. "Today is not that day. Parish officials will be making an announcement about reentry in the near future, but it will not be today."
In Jean Lafitte, A Louisiana Bayou Town, Ida Could Be Worse Than Katrina
While New Orleans reels from a widespread power outage caused by Ida, nearby towns are also feeling the brunt of the storm, including the small communities that dot the bayous outside the city.
Officials in Jean Lafitte, a town in Jefferson Parish about 30 minutes from New Orleans, warned that Ida could be even worse for the area than Hurricane Katrina was 16 years earlier.
“It’s going to be worse for this for the area that I work in, because Katrina took a turn and it hit toward Mississippi more than it hit over here,” said Jean Lafitte Chief of Police Marcell Rodriguez. “I know New Orleans got nailed with it because of that levee failure. But the truth is, the winds wasn't like this.”
Rodriguez gave an update on the storm in an interview with WWNO on Sunday, as Ida continued to pummel the Gulf Coast.
“I'm 70 years old. I grew up back there and I've never seen anything like this,” he said. “This is going to be a nightmare.”
Jean Lafitte was under a mandatory evacuation order, but Rodriguez estimated that about 400 people remained there as Ida made landfall, either because they believed they could ride out the storm or because they didn’t have the resources to leave.
“My heart goes out to all of them. God bless them. But the ones that don't have money to go and don't have transportation to go and are stuck back there, that's sad,” he said.
Rodriguez said he’d heard reports of floodwater as high as ten feet but said he and other first responders had to wait until the storm subsided before they could try to rescue those who were stranded.
“I think they've got about 200 National Guard, which is — that's great — but nobody can do anything right now. You know, right now, people are in the middle of this emergency and there's really not no answer for it. What do you do?” Rodriguez said.
“We can have a thousand people. We can have ten thousand. They'll be sitting, doing the same thing I'm doing — waiting until it’s over to go see what's going on.”
It Will Take 6 Weeks To Return Power To Jefferson Parish, Official Says
It will take at least six weeks to return power to a large section of Louisiana’s coast, Jefferson Parish emergency management director Joe Valiente tells NPR. Jefferson Parish is now under a mandatory curfew through 6 a.m. on Tuesday.
“Damage is incredible” from what was a Category 4 storm, Valiente said, describing hundreds of trees that crashed onto power lines, houses and streets after being uprooted by Ida’s strong winds.
“There are about 10 parishes that the electrical grids are completely collapsed and damaged, smashed, out — however you want to put it,” he added in an interview with NPR's A Martínez.
The damage includes a main electricity tower that collapsed into the Mississippi River, severing a crucial link between supply stations and five parishes, Valiente said. The Coast Guard has halted river traffic near the tower until a salvage operation can pull a tangle of power lines out of the water. In another calamity, a barge, a tugboat and a 100-foot trawler all struck a bridge, which will now likely have to be scrapped, he said, adding that all three vessels sank.
“This was far more extensive than I think” the experts were warning, Valiente said.
One bit of good news, he added, was that the region’s levee system held up well, with only minor problems.
Jefferson Parish stretches from Lake Pontchartrain to Grand Isle, in the coastal area where Ida made landfall Sunday.
“Virtually every person that we've spoken to in Metairie, in Jefferson Parish, has sustained considerable roof damage,” Valiente said.
Emergency rescue and recovery teams are now using high-water vehicles and other equipment to check on people who weathered the storm.
“They will be going door-to-door and checking to see if anyone's there, what they find — exactly what we did during Katrina [which struck 16 years earlier],” Valiente said.
Tips For Staying Safe And Informed On The Ground After Ida
More than 800,000 people are without power in Louisiana after Ida barreled through the state as a Category 4 hurricane, bringing storm surge and high winds and killing at least one person. Ida has since been downgraded to a tropical storm andcontinues through Mississippi.
If you're in an area affected by the storm, here are some resources that can help you stay safe and informed:
Don't venture out until it's safe to do so
Louisiana officials are urging residents to stay off the roads Monday morning while damage assessments are underway. If you're in Louisiana, you can look at road closures here.
If you're in New Orleans, calling 911 may not work because of technological problems with the city's system. "If you find yourself in an emergency, please go to your nearest fire station or approach your nearest officer," the Orleans Parish Communication District tweeted.
The National Weather Service New Orleans' Twitter has these reminders for residents:
We are tired. All of us are tired. This was a difficult time but now we look forward. Try to be EXTREMELY safe today as weather hazards remain in effect. Do not venture out if there is widespread damage. STAY AWAY from downed powerlines. More post-storm info to come. #lawx #mswx pic.twitter.com/u1uUYHaWLV— NWS New Orleans (@NWSNewOrleans) August 30, 2021
If your home is damaged and you need a pet-friendly hotel, Louisiana's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness recommends this website to find one.
Know where to look for updates
For the latest coverage, tune your radio in to 89.9 for New Orleans Public Radio or listen online at WWNO's website.
If you've got internet access, check these pages for updates:
- The National Hurricane Center
- The City Of New Orleans's Twitter
- The Office of Louisiana's Governor
- Text Ida to (504) 688-4438 for Ida updates for metro New Orleans.
- Text Ida to (225) 414-6471 for Ida updates for metro Baton Rouge.
The Louisiana Governor’s office reports you can also opt-in to updates from the state:
- Text IDA to 67283
- Sign up for phone calls by going to Smart911.
If you can, check in on your neighbors
When it's finally safe to venture out, try to check in on your neighbors, especially the elderly and those with disabilities.
The state's Emergency Preparedness Guide offers more steps to take in the days after a serious storm.
What We Know About The Damage In Louisiana So Far
The sun is up in Louisiana and will soon shed a light on just how much damage then-Hurricane Ida wrought.
As NPR's John Burnett told Morning Edition, the storm appears to have been far less destructive than Hurricane Katrina, but it wasn't without its impact. Here's what he's hearing so far:
- The utility company Entergy says its electric network suffered "catastrophic" transmission damage. There are reports that a major transmission tower, which held eight power lines, has fallen into the Mississippi River.
- The storm slowed down after making landfall, with smaller coastal towns taking what Burnett described as "a fearsome beating." Places like Grand Isle, Houma, Raceland and Cocodrie took a direct hit from winds topping 140 miles per hour.
- There are reports of wind peeling the roofs off of buildings around the region, including a hospital, a senior citizens' condominium and a local television station.
- Twenty-two barges have broken loose and are drifting downstream in the Mississippi River. One of them reportedly hit the Kerner Swing Bridge in Lafitte, prompting officials to warn would-be driversto avoid it because of structural damage.
How To Protect Yourself From Carbon Monoxide After A Natural Disaster
Unfortunately, the risks associated with a hurricane don't just pass with the storm.
Many people turn to portable generators to fuel their homes in the face of lingering power outages. And when used improperly, those devices can release deadly amounts of carbon monoxide very quickly.
In fact, at least half of the deaths reported after Hurricane Laura hit Louisiana last August were associated with carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators, rather than the storm itself.
At least 39 people have died after hurricanes from carbon monoxide poisoning since 2017. As NPR's Greg Allen reports, some National Hurricane Center officials are now calling on forecasters and emergency managers to do more to address the threats that remain after a storm. The problem, he notes, is people tend to pay more attention while preparing for a hurricane than in its aftermath.
For more on the risks of portable generators and efforts to make them safer, check out this story. And here's what to know if you or a loved one is planning to use one (courtesy of Consumer Reports and the U.S. Department of Energy):
- Do not run a portable generator inside any enclosed or partially enclosed structures, like a home or a garage. Keep them outside at least 20 feet away from your house, with the engine exhaust directed away from windows or doors.
- Do not run a portable generator in the rain. You can buy well-ventilated tents to safely shield it from any wet conditions.
- Turn the generator off and let it cool before refueling. Maintain an adequate supply of fuel and use only the kind recommended in the manufacturer's instructions.
- Plug equipment directly into the generator, using heavy-duty extension cords.
- Never try to power your home or business by plugging a generator directly into a wall outlet.
- Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, stomach pain, chest pain and confusion. Health officials urge anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to carbon monoxide to get to fresh air immediately and seek medical help.
- Inspect and maintain your generators regularly. Before the next storm, consider buying a newer generator model with built-in carbon monoxide detectors and shutoffs. You may also want to install a transfer switch, which will connect the generator to your circuit panel and eliminate the need for extension cords.
Louisiana And Mississippi Were Overwhelmed By COVID-19 Cases. Then Ida Struck
Louisiana was already battling its fourth coronavirus surge — and worst one yet — when Ida struck. Here's what that means for hospitals, patients and those seeking shelter (and COVID-19 tests):
Hospitals were already crowded with COVID-19 patients
There were 2,450 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Saturday, according to Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who notes that hospitalizations decreased 20% over the previous 10 days but still remained higher than at any point during the pandemic.
Hospitals generally try to discharge as many patients and staff as possible before hurricanes. Louisiana's overcrowded facilities couldn't fully evacuate, however, because so many of their patients are in intensive care units, as member station WWNO explains.
In southern Mississippi, which is also in the storm's direct path, health officials have been diverting critical care patients to northern hospitals. Federal health care teams — which were already responding to the COVID-19 surge in Louisiana and Mississippi — will assist in that effort, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said.
Some health care facilities need to evacuate because of storm damage
Ochsner Health, one of Louisiana's largest hospital systems, says two of its facilities will need to evacuate roughly 60 patients after experiencing flooding, roof damage and generator failures.
As WWNO reports, officials expect to be able to transfer those patients — most of whom are adults — to other facilities within the Ochsner Health System, but were waiting until winds decreased on Monday morning to move them safely.
After Hurricane Ida slammed into the Louisiana coast as a Category 4 storm Sunday, some Ochsner Health System hospitals will need to fully evacuate dozens of patients after experiencing flooding, roof damage and generator failures.— New Orleans Public Radio (@WWNO) August 30, 2021
Two different hospitals in Lafourche Parish, near where Ida made landfall, are also looking to move or evacuate patients due to storm impacts, according to the Associated Press. They reported extensive roof damage and partial generator failure, respectively.
Edwards said on Sunday that the state will focus on making sure hospitals have enough water and generator power to keep up with vital patient needs.
“I hate to say it this way, but we have a lot of people on ventilators today and they don’t work without electricity,” he said.
Another year of sheltering during a pandemic
“We have a lot of experience from last year of handling both the threat of a natural disaster and the continued pandemic at the same time,” Dr. Jennifer Avegno, New Orleans' health department director, said according to WWNO.
Unlike last hurricane season, at least some portion of the population has gotten vaccinated against COVID-19. According to NPR's state tracker, 40.6% of Louisiana's population has been fully vaccinated, and 48.9% has had at least one dose, as of Aug. 26.
Regardless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people staying in public shelters to practice social distancing, wash hands frequently and follow other shelter policies to mitigate risk. Read more tips here.
"The risk of COVID-19 in a public disaster shelter is lower for fully vaccinated people. However, precautions should still be taken, as transmission risk in these settings is higher and likely increases with the number of unvaccinated people present. Thus, fully vaccinated shelter residents should continue to follow all rules set by the shelter which may include wearing masks correctly, maintaining physical distance (at least 6 feet), covering coughs and sneezes, and washing hands frequently."- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
COVID-19 testing and vaccination appointments are on pause
In Mississippi, all testing and vaccination sites run by the state health department will be closed on Monday. Those in central and southern counties will remain closed Tuesday and possibly longer, the department said.
The Louisiana Department of Health closed its community-based testing and vaccine sites early on Friday, with no further information posted about reopening.
It also said it would be pausing its COVID-19 case and vaccination reporting on Monday due to the storm.
How Climate Change Makes Hurricanes Like Ida Worse
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared Ida to be "one of the strongest storms to make landfall in modern times." Climate change is no small part in that. As NPR's climate team reminds us:
- Hurricanes are more likely to be larger and more powerful when they form over hotter ocean water. Climate change is causing global sea surface temperatures to rise.
- Hurricanes are moving more slowly and dropping more rain as the Earth gets hotter. Once they make landfall, they still pack a big punch and lose their power much more slowly. Fifty years ago, a typical storm would lose 75% of its strength within the first 24 hours after it came on land. Now, it loses only 50% in the same time period.
- Ida went from a tropical depression to a Category 1 storm to a Category 4 in a very short amount of time. Climate change is helping to fuel this kind of rapid intensification of hurricanes. As one climatologist notes:
Ida went from newly-formed tropical storm to Cat 4 hurricane in 2.5 days.— Dr. Robert Rohde (@RARohde) August 30, 2021
That's actually not so unusual. ~1/3 of Cat 4 hurricanes grew from tropical storms in 2.5 days or less.
Usually though, such hurricanes form well out at sea. Ida was over land only 12 hours later.
Massive Power Outages Hit Louisiana And Mississippi
Power outages continue to have widespread impact in Louisiana, and are now extending into Mississippi, too.
All of Orleans Parish lost power on Sunday night due to "catastrophic damage" to the local utility company's transmission system. Earlier in the day, Entergy New Orleans — the electric utility that provides power to New Orleans and surrounding parishes — said the hardest-hit areas could have outages "for weeks."
The only power in New Orleans was being provided by generators. There are concerns about how this will affect the city’s pumping systems. Half of New Orleans is at or below sea level.
New Orleans Says Residents May Not Be Able To Reach 911
New Orleans' 911 service is experiencing "technical difficulties," the city's emergency communications center announced around 3 a.m. local time. Ida — since downgraded to a tropical storm — knocked out power citywide after making landfall as a Category 4 hurricane.
"If you find yourself in an emergency, please go to your nearest fire station or approach your nearest officer," the Orleans Parish Communication District tweeted, adding that it will update the public when the issue is resolved.
Officials separately reiterated that 911 is for life-threatening emergencies only, which for a weather event would include:
- Medical emergencies
- Reporting street flooding
- If power lines are down
- If a person or vehicle is trapped in floodwater
Ida Caused 150 Mph Winds. Here's How It Looked On The Ground
The National Hurricane Center reports Ida is now a dangerous tropical storm moving inland through southwestern Mississippi. Although it's weakening rapidly, Ida could still cause deadly flash flooding and power outages in more states as it continues northward.
As a Category 4 hurricane, Ida slammed southeastern Louisiana with catastrophic storm-surge and hurricane-force winds that reached 150 miles per hour.
When the sun rises in Louisiana this morning we'll have a better idea of the storm's damage. Here's a look at Ida's effects as it came ashore. (See more images here.)