Dhe news came late on Sunday evening: New Orleans is in the dark, power outage due to “catastrophic damage” from Hurricane “Ida”. In the neighboring community of Jefferson, a power pole fell into the Mississippi, and there was also a power outage. According to the local electricity provider, the supply runs solely through emergency power generators. Wastewater can no longer be pumped out either. Residents were asked to limit their water consumption and to boil drinking water if possible. According to the PowerOutage.us website, almost a million people were without electricity at 11 p.m. local time.
“Ida” hit land on Sunday morning in Louisiana near Port Fourchon with a wind speed of around 240 kilometers per hour as a category four hurricane. Houses collapsed. Several buildings were covered, including a hospital. In some places on the coast, a storm surge several meters high hit land and roads turned into rivers. Meteorologists warn that the unusually heavy rains Ida triggered could trigger further flooding. At least one person has died. The man was killed by a falling tree.
The power failure is particularly dramatic because not all hospitals could be evacuated due to Corona. In Louisiana, according to the Johns Hopkins University, more than a quarter of all hospital beds and 90 percent of intensive care beds are occupied. While care and rehabilitation facilities could be evacuated, patients have to endure in the large facilities. There were simply no more hospitals to accept them. For them, long-lasting power outages are a danger despite generators. The local electricity provider does not expect the electricity to come back until Monday.
In the evening the storm subsided and was downgraded to a level two hurricane on its way to Baton Rouge. With wind speeds of up to 177 kilometers per hour, it is still wreaking havoc. In addition, “Ida” only moves slowly forward. The affected areas are therefore exposed to strong winds and extreme rainfall over a long period of time.
In St. John, west of New Orleans, the number of 911 calls rose dramatically in the evening as “Ida” swept across the community. Numerous people were trapped in their flooded homes. However, due to the strong storm, the rescue workers had to stop their work. “Please stay at home,” said the community’s Facebook page. Louisiana has declared a state of emergency and several counties are subject to curfew until Monday morning.
Hundreds of rescue experts and the National Guard with 5000 soldiers have already been activated. Thousands of workers are in the process of restoring the power supply. The US civil protection agency Fema flew hundreds of relief workers and supplies into the region. Dozens of ambulances and several medical aircraft were also provided. The Coast Guard stationed numerous helicopters and boats for the upcoming rescue operation. The US military is also preparing for an aid mission. President Joe Biden has pledged further assistance. “As soon as the storm passes, we will use all the might in this country to rescue and rebuild,” he said.
According to Governor John Bel Edwards, “Ida” is one of the worst storms to hit Louisiana since the 1850s. It struck New Orleans exactly 16 years to the day after the devastating hurricane “Katrina”. At that time, more than 1,800 people were killed and 80 percent of the city was flooded. The damage amounted to 100 billion euros. Since then, a lot of money has been invested in flood protection. How successful this was will be seen from Monday, when the rescue and recovery work can begin.