Aug. 29 (UPI) — Sixteen years after Hurricane Katrina struck the region as a Category 3 storm, Hurricane Ida made landfall as a Category 4 with Louisiana residents taking the brunt of the storm.
Doppler radar imagery indicates that the eye of Ida made landfall along the southeastern coast of Louisiana near Port Fourchon around 11:55 a.m. CDT with winds of 150, tying Hurricane Laura in 2020 as the strongest in modern era for the state.
Ida made a second landfall southwest of Galliano, La., around 2 p.m. CDT. with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph.
In its 4 p.m. CDT advisory, the National Hurricane Center said Ida was about 45 miles southwest of New Orleans and 70 miles south-southeast of Baton Rouge, La. Ida was moving northwest at 10 mph with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said on Sunday requested a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration in response to the storm.
“Hurricane Ida is one of the strongest storms to ever hit Louisiana. It is our goal to assist our local agencies and the citizens of the state as quickly as possible and we have pre-positioned search and rescue teams, boats and other assets to begin helping people as soon as it is safe,” he said.
On Friday, Edwards said the state should be prepared to take the brunt of the severe weather.”
“Once the storm has passed, you need to be prepared to shelter in place for the first 72 hours. We have every possible resource ready to go, to help you. We’ll get there sooner than 72 hours if at all possible, in order to rescue people across the state of Louisiana,” he told CNN Sunday.
Edwards had earlier said Ida “is going to be a very serious test for our levee systems” and also it “comes at a time that, quite frankly, it presents some very challenging difficulties for us with the hospitals being so full of Covid patients.”
The National Weather Service on Sunday evening warned residents in the Braithwaite area to seek higher ground immediately, after the government of the Plaquemines Parish said it had received reports that a levee near the Parish line and Wit Ditch could overtop.
On Saturday, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell urged those who have opted to stay in the city to hunker down and prepare for damaging winds, power outages, heavy rain and tornadoes.
Leveed areas of the city are not under mandatory evacuations.
New Orleans Emergency Management Services said it has suspended all operations.
The Sewage and Water Board of New Orleans said Sunday several sewage pump stations on the East and West Banks of New Orleans currently experiencing power outages.
On Friday, the utility said that 96 of the city’s 99 drainage pumps were ready for service and would be fully staffed throughout the storm. “We don’t have as much backup power as we would like, but it’s enough,” said spokesperson Courtney Barnes, according to WWNO. “We always want 99 of 99, but the reality is that we’re never in a situation where we can run all 99 pumps at the same time.
According to Poweroutage.us, 364,448 of the 2,219,271 customers in Louisiana were without power.
Sustained winds of 43 mph and a gust to 67 mph were reported at Lakefront Airport in New Orleans.
A sustained wind speed of 102 mph and a gust of 116 mph was reported at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration C-MAN station at Southwest Pass, La. Another elevated NOAA C-MAN station at Pilot’s Station East near Southwest Pass recently reported a sustained wind of 97 mph and a gust to 121 mph.
Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer said wind gust reports reached 148 mph in Grand Isle before the anemometer, a tool to measure wind speeds, broke. “It’s very likely that those winds are probably pushing 200 mph in gusts,” Timmer said
Only two previous hurricanes in recorded history have ever hit Louisiana with sustained winds of 150 mph: the hurricane that hit Last Island in 1856 and Hurricane Laura, which hammered Louisiana last year, according to Colorado State University meteorologist Philip Klotzbach. Record-keeping began in 1851.
Heavy rain from Hurricane Ida has begun across the southeastern Louisiana coast on Sunday morning.
“Residents and interests from Louisiana through Alabama should be prepared for prolonged power outages, a devastating storm surge on the eastern side of the storm, destructive winds and flying debris and major, life-threatening flooding,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller said.
The Mississippi River was above normal, rising to 4.89 feet Sunday morning with 4.55 feet at Shell Beach.
Storm surge and strong winds reversed the flow of the Mississippi River near New Orleans, which is something the United States Geological Survey said is “extremely uncommon.”
A NOAA National Ocean Service tide gauge at Bay Waveland Yacht Club, Miss., reported a water level of 5.5 feet above mean higher high water.
Route 1 at Leeville, La., which is about a 90-minute drive south of New Orleans, already was inundated.
Satellite images from Sunday morning showed numerous lightning strikes erupting within Hurricane Ida’s cloud structure.
An emergency declaration from Edwards covers the entire state.
St. Tammany Parish, which is north of New Orleans, issued an executive order declaring a curfew, effective at noon. St. John the Baptist Parish, which is west of New Orleans, has a curfew for Sunday night.
Louisiana’s governor as well as Mississippi’s Tate Reeves and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency.
President Joe Biden has approved emergency declarations for Louisiana and Mississippi. “As soon as the storm passes we’re going to put the country’s full might behind the rescue and recovery,” Biden said.
Travelers are stranded at the New Orleans International Airport early Sunday morning after all flights in and out were canceled due to Ida’s approach. Marguerite Alexander of Philadelphia told AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell that her original flight and rebooked flight were both canceled, and she has had no luck booking a hotel or a rental car.
Roads out of town, including on Interstate 10, were packed with traffic from those trying to evacuate.
Baton Rouge Airport also announced flight cancellations.
Hundreds of people in jail were evacuated in Orleans Parish and Plaquemines Parish on Saturday ahead of Hurricane Ida making landfall. According to NBC reporter Christina Watkins, the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office evacuated over 835 people from jail and released three under an emergency declaration. In Plaquemines Parish, the sheriff’s office evacuated over 600 people from jail.
Video taken from the usually lively Bourbon Street in New Orleans appeared bare on Saturday as residents in the area begin hurricane preparations. Only a few pedestrians and vehicles could be seen on the street on Saturday afternoon. According to AccuWeather Reporter Kim Leoffler, many businesses in the area had already closed their doors for the day and boarded up entrances and windows and set out sandbags in anticipation of the storm.
Flood gates in the federal levee system were closed by the Flood Protection Authority to prevent a storm surge in New Orleans as Ida moves toward land. According to the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, this levee closure includes the Lake Borgne Surge Barrier, which is the largest design-built civil works project in Army Corps history and so large it can be seen from space.
The entire Louisiana National Guard was activated on Saturday, according to a USA Today reporter. On Saturday afternoon, 4,013 members of the national guard were standing by with even more set to join them. In a press briefing on Friday, Edwards announced that President Joe Biden approved a pre-landfall federal emergency declaration for the state as Hurricane Ida makes its way toward land.
“This declaration is a key part of us being able to respond to Hurricane Ida and really to prepare in advance of landfall,” Edwards said. In addition to the federal declaration approved by Biden, Edwards said he issued an emergency declaration for the state as well the day prior.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Sunday it has deployed more than 2,400 personnel to several states.
“FEMA is working with its federal, state and local partners as well as non-governmental agencies to support needs of areas affected by Ida,” FEMA said in a news release. “The agency positioned supplies such as meals, water, and generators to assist states with impacts from this storm.”
FEMA said 2.5 million meals and 3.1 million liters of water are staged and ready for distribution.
The storm heavily impacted oil production and transmission.
Colonial Pipeline is temporarily shutting down two fuel lines between Houston and Greensboro, N.C. The 5,500-mile pipeline provides nearly half the gasoline and diesel consumed by the East Coast.
More than 95% of the Gulf of Mexico’s oil production has been halted, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
Of the rigs in the Gulf that are able to be moved around on the sea floor, 11 have been relocated, making up 73.3% of all rigs of this type in the Gulf. In total, 90.84% of the current oil production in the Gulf of Mexico has been shut in, and 84.87% of gas production has been shut in. The facilities will be inspected after the hurricane passes before being brought back online.
In New Orleans, residents knew to hit the stores early, cleaning out the shelves at one store while stocking up on the grocery essentials and topping off gas tanks.
“I hate to say it, but we’re experienced at this,” Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy told AccuWeather’s Adam Del Rosso during Thursday night’s installment of AccuWeather Prime. “We already have pre-positioned utility trucks so that if power lines go down, they can quickly move in. But of course, hospitals and homes have generators if they have people that cannot be moved, the generators can provide the support for ventilators, oxygen machines and et cetera,” the senator said.
Part of that preparation in New Orleans also meant distributing sandbags to safeguard against storm surge.
On Friday, Cantrell called for mandatory evacuations for residents located outside the levee protection system, including Lake Catherine, Irish Bayou and Venetian Isles.
During a news conference later in the day on Friday, Cantrell said the city of New Orleans was unable to issue a mandatory evacuation for its residents because there is not enough time to do so before the storm makes landfall.
In 2005, the Superdome was used as a shelter for last resort. Approximately 10,000 residents sheltered there with electricity lost, the dome peeling off and causing water damage, and not enogiuh food and water.
Lake Charles, is still reeling from last year’s record-breaking hurricane madness.
Almost exactly one year ago, the deadly Hurricane Laura slammed into the city at Category 4 strength. Twelve months later, residents and state officials are still pleading for federal aid, having made requests President Biden and former President Donald Trump for $3 billion in recovery aid that have gone unfulfilled.
“Many structures are compromised throughout this city, and it would not take much, would not take a Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane to literally blow over a lot of structures in this community that is left damaged from Laura or Delta,” Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter told KATC. “We have 5,000 to 7,000 people out of a population of 80,000 that we believe are still displaced. We have properties of both residential and commercial that literally haven’t been touched since Hurricane Laura.”
Another harsh reality for the state is the status of COVID-19 transmission. With over 140,000 new cases recorded in the past four weeks, Louisiana has had the fifth-most infections in the whole country. That sharp rise in cases is accounting for over 1,500 patients filling ICU beds in the state. Just 203 ICU beds in the entire state are currently available across the nine regions, according to data from the Louisiana Department of Health.
CNN reported on Friday that the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has no plans to separate vaccinated shelter-goers from unvaccinated shelter-goers, although spokesperson Mike Steele did say that masks and social distancing are required at all state shelters, along with an adherence to CDC guidelines.
“Well, of course, if you’re having to evacuate people from hospitals further south into hospitals that are already full further north, that’s a real burden,” Sen. Cassidy told AccuWeather. “It does seem like the peak of infections may have fallen, but we’re still seeing a lot of folks dying. So the ICUs are still full, it is one more reason to be vaccinated.”
Dr. Katherine O’Neal, chief medical officer or Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, told CNN: “This hospital is ready to sustain quite a bit of damage, ready to sustain quite a bit of power outages. We’re talking about rationing supplies, getting ready for days of having our team here, but we have the ability to do that. What we don’t have is space and what we don’t have are health care workers because of Covid. We have 619 people in-house today.”