One hospital whose generators went out were forced to relocate ICU patients who had oxygen manually pumped into their bodies by doctors and nurses due to a lack of electricity.
The storm hit Louisiana as President Joe Biden warned Ida would be a ‘devastating hurricane – a life threatening storm.’
Biden spoke hours after Ida made landfall on the Louisiana coast as a Category 4 hurricane, bringing with it 150mph winds, storm surges of up to 16 feet, and flash floods across a widespread area. Some 500,000 residents were left without power as of Sunday evening.
Ida maintained Category 4 winds for about six hours after making landfall at around 1pm EST on Sunday before it weakened to a Category 3 hurricane.
Last year, Hurricane Laura, which made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 with 150mph winds, was downgraded to Category 3 after just three hours over land, as did Hurricane Michael in 2018.
Category 3 storms have sustained winds between 111 and 129mph.
The National Weather Service office in New Orleans says that a levee was overrun by rainfall and storm surge on the east bank of Plaquemines Parish between the Parish line and White Ditch.
‘If you are in the Braithwaite area…SEEK HIGHER GROUND NOW!’
In Lafourche Parish, officials said their 911 line and the phone lines that service the Parish Sheriff Office have been knocked down as a result of the storm. Local residents who are stranded in the Parish are advised to call 985-772-4810 or 985-772-4824.
In a press conference Sunday, President Joe Biden commented on Hurricane Ida, saying he’s ‘ready to surge all the response capacity capability that we have to deal with whatever comes next.’
The images above of the inner wall of the hurricane were taken from cell phone footage filmed by someone who did not evacuate Golden Meadow, Louisiana on Sunday
A generator in the intensive care unit of Thibodaux Regional Health System in Lafourche Parish failed, forcing hospital staff to bag and transport patients on life support to another wing of the facility where there was still electricity, according to NOLA.com.
That means hospital staff manually pushed air into and out of the lungs of patients who had been previously been hooked up to power-generated ventilators.
New Orleans and the parishes surrounding the city have been placed under a flash flood warning as of Sunday evening. The warnings will remain in effect until at least 11pm EST.
Even though the hurricane made landfall some 100 miles south of New Orleans, officials at the city’s airport reported wind gusts of up to 81mph.
The image above shows security camera footage from the Delacroix Yacht Club coming from the Delacroix back levee towards Bayou Terre Bouef
As of 7pm on Sunday, Ida weakened to a Category 3 hurricane, with sustained winds of 125mph
Ida hit on the same date Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi 16 years earlier, coming ashore about 45 miles west of where Category 3 Katrina first struck land.
Katrina was blamed for 1,800 deaths and caused levee breaches and catastrophic flooding in New Orleans, which took years to recover.
The governor of Louisiana says that the newly installed levees which were put in place at a cost of billions of dollars will hold in place.
‘I have requested a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration from President Biden due to the severe impact of Hurricane Ida,’ Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced on Sunday after the storm made landfall.
‘This declaration will help us better respond to Ida so we can begin getting additional aid and assistance to our people.’
The images above show the extent of the flooding that engulfed Fire Station #12 in Delacroix within a one-hour time span
The heavy rains pounded the area just before 10:30am local time on Sunday
The street was inundated with flood waters as the hurricane made landfall along the Gulf Coast on Sunday
The images above were taken by surveillance cameras on Grand Isle Marina. The flood waters accumulated within a three-hour time span
Ida hit on the same date Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi 16 years earlier, coming ashore about 45 miles west of where Category 3 Katrina first struck land. The images above were taken by cameras attached to Fire Station #12 in Delacroix
An estimated 410,000 homes have so-far been left without power. There have not been any reports of injuries or deaths, although some of those ordered to evacuate have vowed to stay home and take their chances
Ida made landfall in Port Fouchon on the Louisiana coast at 11:55am EST on Sunday, as an ‘extremely dangerous’ Category 4 hurricane
The governor said: ‘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.’
‘This major disaster declaration will help Louisiana better respond to this crisis and protect the health and safety of our people, and I hope the White House will act quickly so we can begin getting additional aid and assistance to our people,’ the governor added.
Earlier on Sunday, Edwards told reporters at a news briefing: ‘This is one of the strongest storms to make landfall here in modern times.’
The state ‘has never been more prepared,’ he said, predicting that no levees in the Hurricane & Storm Damage Risk Reduction System protecting the greater New Orleans area would be overtopped.
Two boats appeared to collide on the waters off St. Rose, Louisiana, as Hurricane Ida whipped up fierce winds on Sunday
‘Will it be tested? Yes. But it was built for this moment,’ he said. Edwards said some levees in the state’s southeast not built by the federal government were predicted to overtop.
The rising ocean swamped the barrier island of Grand Isle as landfall came just to the west at Port Fourchon.
Ida made a second landfall about two hours later near Galliano.
The hurricane was churning through the far southern Louisiana wetlands, with the more than 2 million people living in and around New Orleans and Baton Rouge up next.
The force of the storm made the Mississippi River flow backwards due to due sheer strength of the winds pushing against the water at the river’s mouth.
Speaking hours after Ida hit Sunday, Biden said: ‘I’ve been in touch with the governors of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana and my team at the White House has been in touch with other state and local federal officials in the region, and they know they’ll be the full resources and support of the federal government.
‘So I want to emphasize again, this is going to be a devastating hurricane – a life-threatening storm. So please all you folks in Louisiana and Mississippi and God knows, maybe even further East, take precautions. Listen, take it seriously, really very seriously.’
The president added that he’s ‘ready to surge all the response capacity capability that we have to deal with whatever comes next.’
Ida made landfall in Port Fouchon on the Louisiana coast at 11:55am EST on Sunday, as an ‘extremely dangerous’ Category 4 hurricane.
The image above shows Hurricane Ida striking the coast of lower Louisiana east of New Orleans on Sunday
A person crosses a street in New Orleans as the city felt some hurricane-force winds generated by Ida on Sunday
A group of people walk through the French District during Hurricane Ida on Sunday
Kandaysha Harris wipes her face before continuing traveling through inclement weather generated by Hurricane Ida on Sunday
New Orleans and the parishes surrounding the city have been placed under a flash flood warning as of Sunday evening
The image above shows rain battering downtown New Orleans after Hurricane Ida made landfall 100 miles away in Port Fourchon on Sunday
A section of a building’s roof is seen after being blown off during rain and winds in the French Quarter of New Orleans on Sunday
The National Weather Service announced flash flood warnings for New Orleans and surrounding parishes on Sunday
As of Sunday evening, there were at least 530,000 Louisiana residents who were without power – the vast majority of them in the areas closest to the hurricane
Its windspeed sat just 7mph short of a category five hurricane, with the weather event predicted to be one of the most severe ever to hit the southern state.
The hurricane’s eye is 17 miles in diameter, with the extreme weather event also set to bring flash floods, thunder, lightning, storm surges and tornados to areas in or close to its path.
Palm trees trembled as rain blasted in sideways through New Orleans on Sunday, where retired 68-year-old Robert Ruffin had evacuated with his family to a downtown hotel from their home in the city’s east.
‘I thought it was safer,’ he said. ‘It’s double trouble this time because of COVID.’
Hours later, howling winds sucked out windows on the hotel’s third floor, and blue curtains were seen fluttering outside.
Wind gusts of up to 180mph are expected close to shore, with the National Hurricane Service warning of ‘catastrophic damage’ to anything in their path.
The NHC also warned of potentially catastrophic wind damage and up to two feet of rainfall in some areas.
The roof was ripped off a building in New Orleans’ famous French Quarter by Hurricane Ida on Sunday afternoon
Firefighters use a wet vaccum to soak up water leaking into a firestation as hurricane Ida passes in Bourg, Louisiana on August 29, 2021
A woman walks her dog in the French Quarter during Hurricane Ida on August 29, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana
A truck sits submerged in Bay St Louis, Mississippi, after being abandoned by its driver because of storm surges caused by Ida
A worker rides a bicycle to deliver food in the French Quarter during Hurricane Ida on August 29, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana
Utility workers play in the wind from Hurricane Ida as they wait for the storm to pass to begin repairs on August 29, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana
Residents who have no interior rooms in their home were told to move to a closet or bathroom for protection, with the governor warning it could take 72 hours for emergency responders to arrive.
Some parishes imposed curfews beginning Sunday evening, forbidding people from going outside.
‘We’re as prepared as we can be, but we’re worried about those levees,’ said Kirk Lepine, president of Plaquemines Parish on the state’s Gulf Coast.
Plaquemines, one of the most vulnerable parishes, is home to 23,000 people along the Mississippi delta.
Lepine feared water topping levees along Highway 23.
‘That’s our one road in and out,’ he said.
Ida is also forecast to bring ‘extremely life-threatening’ storm surges of up to 16 feet of water, with the region stretching from Burns Point in Louisiana to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, most at risk of inundation.
New Orleans is not forecast to see high surges, amid worries flood water could overcome the city’s levees and other flood defenses, which were bolstered in the wake of Katrina.
‘Everyone who cares about New Orleans is worried,’ said Andy Horowitz, a history professor who wrote Katrina: A History, 1915-2015.
Horowitz fled to Alabama with his family from their home near New Orleans’ French Quarter.
Some $14billion was spent strengthening levees after Katrina, but that may still be insufficient in the face of climate change, he said.
As a result of the storm, the Mississippi River is flowing in reverse in southeastern Louisiana as Ida pushes immense amounts of sea water ashore, according to flood-control authorities.
The Big Easy has been warned to expect between 15 and 20 inches of rainfall. Forecasters fear such a downpour could cause widespread flash floods, as the city’s pumping system struggles to cope.
On Sunday, Edwards said he expects Ida to be ‘a big challenge for us.’
While speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper on ‘State of the Union,’ Edwards said Louisiana ‘is as ready as we can be,’ but he expects Ida to be ‘a very serious test of our levy systems, especially in our coastal Louisiana.’
A foolhardy utility worker braves a sea wall to take some snaps in Bay St Louis, Mississippi, despite warnings of storm surges of up to 16 feet
A man takes a selfie on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans on Sunday as Hurricane Ida hit the area
Waves crash against the New Canal Lighthouse on Lake Pontachartrain, amid warnings of storm surges of up to 16 feet
A truck makes its way through Bourg, Louisiana, on Sunday, with Ida’s winds whipping the trees behind it
‘This is not the kind of storm that we normally get,’ Edwards told Associated Press.
‘This is going to be much stronger than we usually see and, quite frankly, if you had to draw up the worst possible path for a hurricane in Louisiana, it would be something very, very close to what we’re seeing.’
After the failure of Katrina in 2005, the state invested in shoring up the levy system. The governor said Ida ‘will be the most severe test,’ but he expects the levees to hold. ‘
The next 24, 36 hours are just going to be very, very critical for us here in,’ Edwards said.
In addition, Edwards compared Ida to be similar in strength to 2020’s Hurricane Laura at landfall.
Laura had been Louisiana’s strongest-measured hurricane since 1856.
‘Your window of time is closing. It is rapidly closing. By the time you go to bed tonight, you need to be where you intend to ride this storm out and you need to be as prepared as you can be,’ said Edwards.
The number of Louisiana National Guardsmen in place was around 400, and will rise to around 5,000 in the coming days, Edwards said.
Edwards added that 10,000 electrical linemen were also stationed around Louisiana, with another 10,000 contracted on a needed basis.
Officials had ordered widespread evacuations of low-lying and coastal areas, jamming highways and leading some gasoline stations to run dry as residents and vacationers fled, although Edwards said it was impossible to evacuate patients from hospitals.
Louisiana hospitals were treating some 2,450 COVID-19 patients after a surge in infections, Edwards said, with many in some of the state’s parishes already nearing capacity.
When speaking to Wolf Blitzer, Dr. Katherine O’Neal, chief medical officer or Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, said her hospital is ready to sustain Ida, but will be stretched thin due to a spike in Covid-19 patients.
‘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,’ O’Neal said.
What the hospital is lacking is space, in addition to health care workers because of Covid.
‘We have 619 people in-house today. We have 157 Covid patients, which is just unbelievable and still higher than we’ve ever seen in this pandemic before,’ O’Neal said.
‘Once again we find ourselves dealing with a natural disaster in the midst of a pandemic,’ said Jennifer Avegno, the top health official for New Orleans.
Lady of the Sea General Hospital in Lafourche Parish, near where Ida made landfall, reported extensive roof damage.
‘All patients and staff are fine at this time without injury; although, our hospital has sustained significant damage,’ hospital CEO Karen Collins said in a message relayed via Facebook.
The hospital’s phone system was down.
‘Once it is safe to do so they will evacuate their small number of patients,’ state health department spokeswoman Aly Neel said in an email.
Details on the number of patients involved were not immediately available.
The governor also said 22 nursing homes and 18 assisted living facilities have been evacuated though evacuating the largest hospitals was not an option because there simply aren’t other places to send them.
Anticipating that power could be out for weeks in places, Edwards said a big focus will be on making sure there is enough generator power and water at hospitals so they can keep up with vital patient needs such as providing oxygen or powering ventilators.
‘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.
The sky is seen darkening over Lake Pontchartrain in Mandeville, Louisiana, on Sunday morning as Ida approaches the coast of the state
A foolhardy walker checks out the rough waters caused by Ida in Gulfport, Mississippi, on Sunday
Two women walk past a boarded-up business in New Orleans on Sunday, with locals warned to stay inside until Ida passes
A man was seen checking his phone in Gulfport, Mississippi, on Sunday as Ida began to barrel in, with the storm set to be the worst on record to hit Louisiana
Route 90 in Gulfport, Mississippi, saw roads flooded by Ida, with the Category 4 hurricane set to bring flash floods and storm surges of up to 15 feet
Officials at Ochsner Health, which runs the largest hospital network in Louisiana, said roughly 15 of the network’s hospitals are in areas potentially affected by Ida.
The network evacuated some patients with particular medical needs from small, rural hospitals to larger facilities.
Warner Thomas, president and CEO of Ochsner Health, said Sunday that the system decided preemptively to evacuate a smaller hospital in St. Charles Parish when the storm’s track shifted a bit east.
He said 35 patients were moved to other hospitals in the region over a little less than three hours. When it comes to power at their facilities, Mike Hulefeld said, they are in pretty good shape.
Three of their facilities in areas affected by Ida were moved to generator power in anticipation of losing city power.
Hulefeld said the hospital network ordered 10 days of supplies for facilities in areas that might be affected by Ida, and everything arrived Saturday.
Each facility has backup power that was tested and a backup fuel truck on-site. Many of the chain’s hospitals also have water wells in case city water goes out.
With people evacuating and potentially going to stay with relatives or in shelters, medical officials said they are concerned the hurricane could translate into more coronavirus infections in coming days just as hospitalization numbers are going down.
Thomas said the hospital system has seen a decline in almost 200 coronavirus patients over the past week across all their facilities.
Officials said Sunday they have been making the rounds and talking to staff in the hospitals – often referred to as the ‘A Team’ because they’re the ones that go into lockdown when a hurricane arrives and work until the storm passes and they can be relieved.
The hurricane comes on top of the year and a half long pandemic that has been an amazing stress on health care workers, and many are sad and frustrated.
‘Folks realize they got a job to do. There are people who need to be cared for,’ Thomas said.
‘But it does take a toll.’
Dr. Jeff Elder, medical director for emergency management at LCMC Health, said the system’s six hospitals went into lockdown mode Sunday.
Employees were going to stay at the hospitals for the duration of the storm arrived Saturday and early Sunday and would sleep there.
Elder said one of the first things their hospitals do when storms arrive is discharge patients who are able to leave.
However, the patient load is high because of the pandemic so they’re not able to reduce by much. He said the hospitals in the system are more robust since 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
‘We’ve learned a lot since 2005,’ he said.
Key pieces of infrastructure are now raised to keep them out of flooding.
For example, at University Medical Center in New Orleans, which was built after Katrina, the generator is raised, diesel supplies are protected and the first floor doesn’t have essential services so even if flood waters get that high nothing essential is lost.
All hospitals in the system have generator backup power, Elder said. He also stressed that communication is now much better between hospitals in the hospital system as well as with various levels of government.
The storm will travel upwards through midweek, with a local flash flood threat penetrating inland into Tennessee Valley, Ohio Valley, Central Appalachians and mid-Atlantic.
A few rotating cells in Ida’s rainbands may generate tornadoes from southeast Louisiana into southern Mississippi, southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle Sunday into Monday.
This threat might spread as far north and east as the Tennessee Valley and northern Georgia Monday into Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.
Jefferson Parish, which sits close to New Orleans, is said to be particularly vulnerable to a breach.
The sky over New Orleans grew dark on Sunday morning, with the city’s I-10 freeway largely deserted as locals prepared for Ida
A satellite photo taken from the International Space Station shows just how large Ida is as it sits off the coast of the US
An astonishing satellite image showed lighting bolts flashing amid Storm Ida as it moved towards the Louisiana coast
Leeville in Louisiana is pictured starting to flood as Ida rolled in on Sunday morning
Hurricane expert Eric Blake tweeted Sunday that the strength of Ida has made him ‘sick to his stomach’
This would be the first time the newly-upgraded defenses have been breached since they were strengthened in the wake of Katrina.
On Sunday, longtime NBC weatherman Al Roker, headed straight into the storm, making certain viewers got a firsthand look at the category 4 hurricane and what it was doing along the banks of Louisiana.
Judging from Roker’s report of the storm, things are escalating quickly.
During Sunday’s report, the 67-year-old weatherman was plummeted by waves as the storm surged upwards of 15-16 feet in New Orleans.
On Sunday morning New Orleans – which is set to be hit by the full force of the storm – saw its 911 service go down, with locals urged to call a far longer number instead, although service has since been restored.
It is currently around 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, and is expected to make landfall later on Sunday.
In addition, a tornado warning is in effect for southeast Mobile county and Grand Bay in Pointe Coupee Parish, with twisters a common occurrence at the outer edges of hurricanes as the make landfall.
Evacuations have begun amid warnings of storm surges of up to 15 feet, with Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng saying of the predicted inundation: ‘I want to reiterate, the storm surge that we are expecting is unsurvivable.’
Hurricane expert Eric Blake also tweeted his horror at the weather event, writing: ‘I feel sick to my stomach watching this #hurricane. #Ida ‘s eye is clearing out, and the rapid intensification continues. At this point be ready for the one of the strongest to ever make landfall in #Louisiana. This is a very sobering morning… godspeed.’
According to the National Hurricane Center, Ida sustained winds of 150 mph, just 60 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River, continuing its way toward Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico.
It would take merely 7 mph for Ida to transition into Category 5 storm, the NHC said, the strongest category. If Ida does become a cat 5 hurricane, it will be the first on record to have made landfall in Louisiana.
With Hurricane Ida intensifying over the Gulf of Mexico Saturday and barreling towards the Gulf Coast, thousands of fleeing residents clogged highways as they raced inland, and the New Orleans airport cancelled all of Sunday’s inbound and departing flights.
A car sits parked on a levee close to New Orleans, amid fears the flood defenses could be overcome by Hurricane Ida
How similar is Ida to Katrina?
Hurricane Ida shares some similarities with Hurricane Katrina, but it’s size and wind speed suggest it could be a more concentrated, destructive storm…
Wind speed: Katrina hit Louisiana as a Category 3 storm with 125 mph winds. Ida will hit the city as a Category 4 with slightly higher winds of 130 mph.
Timing: Katrina made landfall on August 29, 2005. Ida is making landfall on August 29, 2021, exactly 16 years later.
Size: Katrina was a larger storm, which means it was weaker and its damage was more spread out. Ida is smaller, which makes for a stronger storm with more localized damage.
Angle: Katrina hit New Orleans from the south, but Ida is entering from the southeast, which will put New Orleans under the storm’s strongest part – the northeastern quadrant.
Infrastructure: New Orleans’ infrastructure has been updated since Katrina in 2005, when much of the damage was blamed on the levee failures that allowed for extreme flooding. It remains to be seen how they will hold during Ida.
On Sunday morning, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency for Alabama’s coastal & western counties effective at 2:00 p.m.
As of early Sunday morning, Ida was a Category 3 storm with whipping winds of 115 mph. It was about 145 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, according to the National Hurricane Center.
But it quickly strengthened to a category four, with forecaster Sam Lillo tweeting: ‘Ida is the furthest north hurricane on record in the Atlantic to deepen 50mb (millibars) in 24 hours or less.’ Millibars are units used to record pressure.
Edwards said that the storm will be ‘one of the strongest hurricanes to hit anywhere in Louisiana since at least the 1850s.’
It’s predicted to cause heavy downpours and a tidal surge that could plunge most of the Louisiana shoreline under several feet of water.
‘We’re going to catch it head-on,’ Bebe McElroy told the Associated Press as she prepared to leave home in the coastal Louisiana village of Cocodrie. ‘I’m just going around praying, saying, ‘Dear Lord, just watch over us.”
‘We’re not the same state we were 16 years ago,’ Edwards said on Saturday, pointing to a federal levee system that’s seen major improvements since Katrina swamped New Orleans in 2005.
‘This system is going to be tested. The people of Louisiana are going to be tested. But we are resilient and tough people. And we’re going to get through this.’
Edwards said 5,000 National Guard troops were being staged in 14 parishes for search and rescue efforts with high-water vehicles, boats and helicopters.
And 10,000 linemen were on standby to respond to electrical outages.
Jackson, Mississippi Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba told CNN during a TV interview at 11pm Saturday that he’s most concerned about how city’s infrastructure will hold up and said the city’s hospitals are already filled because of the COVID-19 surge brought on by the ‘Delta’ variant.
For those who will be weathering the storm were reminded by President Joe Biden not to forego COVID precautions: ‘If you have to move to shelter, make sure you wear a mask and try to keep some distance – we’re still facing the highly contagious delta variant as well.’
New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell urged residents reminded residents during mid-day Saturday press conference that he local COVID surge has city hospitals at full capacity.
She called on those planning to flee from the ‘life-altering’ hurricane to ‘do so immediately’ and for those planning to ride out the storm to finish their preparations and shelter in place as quickly as possible.
‘This is our time, your time, to prepare yourselves now. This is it,’ she said.
‘Check on your neighbors, your friends, of course your family, assist them when needed… in Hurricane Katrina, we learned that we are all first responders.’
The city’s French Quarter had also begun to disappear behind plywood boards
New Orleans normally bustling Canal Street lay empty Saturday – with a CVS already boarded up
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and Edwards had a call with Biden on Friday afternoon to synchronize federal and local storm preparation and response plans.
Also on the call was FEMA Administrator Deanna Criswell, Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Julie Rodriguez.
FEMA is pre-positioning food, water, generators and other resources in the at-risk region, the president’s office said Saturday.
A local buys plywood at a Home Depot in New Orleans on Saturday in preparation for Hurricane Ida
Canal Street in New Orleans stood deserted on Saturday night as locals prepared for Hurricane Ida to hit the city on Sunday
The city’s famed Bourbon Street looked far quieter than usual, as Ida was forecast to hit on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina
Levees strengthened in wake of Katrina could be overcome by Ida
Since Hurricane Katrina, the federal government has spent $14.5 billion on levees, pumps, seawalls, floodgates and drainage that provide enhanced protection from storm surges and flooding in New Orleans and surrounding suburbs south of Lake Pontchartrain.
The system is a 350-mile network of levees, floodwalls, canals, 24 pumping stations and 99 pumps within the city of New Orleans – suburbs have their own pump systems.
Levees are made from compacted soil, whereas floodwalls are erected from man-made materials, usually metal and cement.
The National Hurricane Center forecasts between 10 to 15 feet of floodwaters in the West Bank area, which lies east of the main part of the city (the area is named for its position on the Mississippi River) – the upper range of that estimate would ‘overtop’ most of the southwest-facing levee walls facing the Gulf of Mexico in that area.
The average height of the levee walls facing southwest, according to NOLA.com, is 14 feet.
If forecasted flood levels prove true, floodwaters will rise over levees for the first time since the system was upgraded post-Hurricane Katrina. In 2005, over 50 levees failed throughout New Orleans, leaving 80 percent of the city underwater.
The surge is predicted to weaken as it flows over the marshes and land of southern Jefferson Parish, shrinking in height and intensity as it moved further inland and toward the levees surrounding the communities near the Mississippi River. Exactly how much of an effect that would have, however, is not clear.
‘Armoring,’ a new strategy applied to the levee system since Hurricane Katrina, involves strategically planting grass and laying mats along the inside of the levees – this prevents floodwaters that flow over the walls from eroding soil at the levee’s base, which could cause the structure to collapse.
However, because water has never made it over the retaining walls before, this erosion-prevention system has never been tested in practice.
Southeast Flood Protection Authority – West Region Director Nicholas Calli, whose agency oversees the levees, said to NOLA.com that he was confident that the system would work as designed.
Authorities predict that the rest of the system, lining the Mississippi River to the north of the city of New Orleans, is not expected to be overwhelmed by high water levels.
A surge of storm water, in theory, would be slowed and lowered in height as it flowed over the marshes and land of southern Jefferson Parish, putting the walls protecting the communities near the Mississippi River – it is unclear how much, however.
Water that overtakes the levees would be pumped out by the same water pumps used to divert rainwater that falls within the levee’s walls outside of its perimeter.
Parts of the $2billion of drainage equipment installed since 2005 can pump out as much as 4.7 inches of rainwater each three hours, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Combined, the Corps said, the pumps have a capacity of over 50,000 cubic feet per second (CFS), or 400,000 gallons of water.
Authorities urged residents on Friday to clean leaves and detritus around storm drains to prevent the system from clogging and, therefore, slowing the removal of water.
While some of the pumps were built more recently, according to New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board Executive Director Ghassan Korban, some are antiques. Officials tried to bring an electrical turbine online on Friday in an attempt to provide a back-up power source for less reliable pumps.
Three of the 99 pumps are not operation, an obstacle that Korban said will be solved by the ‘redundancy’ of the system and its back-ups.
Just weeks ago, on August 6, the Army Corps of engineers recommended $1.7billion dollars in renovations to the system to ensure that it will work reliably until 2078. Among proposed changes were raising the height of 99 miles of the levees, replacing over a mile of floodwalls and building an additional 3.2 miles of additional flood walls.
Meanwhile, the president implored local authorities to reach out for federal assistance, should they need it, before the projected hurricane makes landfall.
‘I need to know everything you think we need to do,’ he said at a press conference just before 2 pm. ‘If you haven’t gotten the authority for it, tell me now, we’ll get it done.’
‘Thank you, thank you thank you, everything that you’re doing to prepare for this dangerous storm is going to mitigate the impact and potential…. Disastrous results that will [effect] so many people in the region.’
Terrebonne, Lafourche, Plaquemines, Orleans, St. Charles, Port Fourchon and St. Mary Parish all mandated evacuations for some or all of their residents, and New Orleans employers let their employees go home by 6pm so they have adequate time to seek shelter.
Ida was a tropical depression just two days earlier but it strengthened so quickly that New Orleans officials said there was no time to organize a mandatory evacuation of the city’s 390,000 residents.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the city did not have sufficient time to mandate evacuations inside the levee system, or to open up additional lanes of traffic, known as contraflow, to allow more people to evacuate.
An evacuation of that magnitude requires coordination with the state and neighboring locales so that inbound lanes on are highways can be converted to shunt traffic away from the city.
Even without the mandatory evacuation, traffic on Interstate 10 out of New Orleans was heavy or at a standstill throughout the day Saturday. Roads were congested as early as 4 am.
Reports indicate many more heeded the officials’ warnings and vacated the area, but those who chose to hunker down in New Orleans and the surrounding areas along the coast boarded up their homes and businesses and made preparations.
The city’s emergency planners – simultaneously traumatized and prepared for the worst by Hurricane Katrina – have promised a ‘very robust, very quick, post-storm evacuation.’
Inundated with surrendered pets, Louisiana’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is also at full capacity, and will similarly transition to ‘post-storm operations.’
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, 70 percent of homes were damaged to some degree, and more than 1,800 people died.
Ten to 15 feet of water is expected to collect around the mouth of the Mississippi River, the National Hurricane Center said, and lower levels of flooding could extend as far east as the coastlines of adjacent Mississippi and Alabama.
In the capital of Baton Rouge, Marvin Broome said he had no choice but to stay home because his wife is the mayor, Sharon Weston Broome.
The 73-year-old English teacher said in a phone interview he was stashing family valuables and important papers in a safe part of their home while Mayor Broome dealt with the city of 224,000.
Predicted storm surges were already happening, exceeding 6 feet in some parts of the coast.
Parts of Highway 90 that runs along the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast had become a choppy river, according to videos posted on social media.
Mayor Broome signed an emergency disaster declaration, and said her city had preemptively stationed sand and sandbags at eight strategic locations as the storm approached.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday that FEMA will send nearly 150 medical personnel and almost 50 ambulances to the Gulf Coast to assist strained hospitals.
Terrebonne Parish officials also told everyone to evacuate, WWL-TV reported.
‘If you can leave on your own, please leave on your own,’ Parish President Gordon Dove said. ‘We are the bullseye by every indication, of everything we have found.’
Heavy rainfall and flooding have already began to affect Mississippi ahead of Ida’s suspected landfall.
Hailey DeLaune of Gulf told Reuters today that she and her fiancée spent Friday evening amassing provisions and boarding up the windows of his house in Gulfport, Mississippi.
‘Hurricanes have always been part of my life,’ said Delaune, a high school theology teacher who was born during 1992’s Category 5 Hurricane Andrew. ‘You just run through your list and hope for the best.’
Shelves were seen low on stock at a Walmart on Tchoupitolas in New Orleans, Louisiana ahead of Hurricane Ida on Friday. Breads, meats, snacks, canned meats, cases of water, chips and fans are in short supply.
Shoppers at Costco in New Orleans stocked up on supplies like bottles of water and toilet paper ahead of Hurricane Ida. Lines at gas stations flowed into the streets and an Exxon in New Orleans has already closed its pumps because it is out of gas.
City officials said residents need to be prepared for prolonged power outages, and asked elderly residents to consider evacuating. Arnold said the city could be under high winds for about ten hours.
At Governor Edwards’ request, Biden issued a pre-landfall federal emergency declaration on Friday, which authorized the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to begin coordinating disaster relief efforts.
‘Nobody was out there shrimping today, opening day of shrimp season,’ said George Barisich, a shrimper, to CBS News. ‘So that ought to tell you. When I got in this morning, late last night… about 75, 80 percent of the boats already left.’
Meteorologist Steve Bowen, head of global catastrophe insight at the risk and consulting firm Aon, said the area that was about to get hit is especially vulnerable, with large swaths of industries that could cause environmental damages as well as homes that still have tarps instead of roofs from multiple storms in 2020.
‘It’s not just the coastal impact. It’s not just New Orleans,’ Bowen said.
‘We’re certainly looking at potential losses well into the billions.’
On Friday, Ida smashed into Cuba’s small Isle of Youth, off the southwestern end of the Caribbean island nation, toppling trees and tearing roofs from dwellings.
Jamaica was flooded by heavy rains, and there were landslides after the passage of the storm. Many roads were impassable, forcing some residents to abandon their homes.
Ida, the ninth named storm and fourth hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, was expected to exceed the strength of Hurricane Laura, the last Category 4 storm to strike Louisiana, by the time it makes landfall, forecasters said.
A satellite photo shows Ida over the Caribbean sea, just off the coast of Florida
Locals have begun to evacuate areas of Louisiana in Ida’s path
Shelves of a New Orleans Walmart were emptied ahead of the hurricane, set to be one of the worst to ever hit the area
As the storm plowed into Cuba on Friday night, the National Weather Service warned that it shows ‘no signs of weakening.’
‘If Ida maintains a good inner core it will intensify quickly as it enters the Gulf. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THIS! If you are asked to evacuate, LEAVE or you’re putting your life in danger!’ the NWS asserted.
In another tweet, the NWS wrote: ‘The time to act is NOW. Hurricane Ida is now forecast to make landfall as a category 4 hurricane. This will bring SIGNIFICANT impacts to Southern Louisiana and Southern Mississippi. No major changes to the track at this time, moved just a touch to the east.’
‘Along with the change to a Category 4 landfall we also now have upgraded to a Hurricane WARNING for parts of southern Louisiana and southern Mississippi. Damaging winds are expected with Ida and could reach the coast by Saturday night.’
The agency said that a storm surge warning is also now in effect for the likelihood of life-threatening storm surge in some areas of southeaster Louisiana and coastal Mississippi – while a storm surge watch is in effect for the potential of life-threatening storm surge for outer areas.
In its biggest weekly gain this year, oil prices shot up by two percent on Friday.
As the storm tore through the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday and Friday, energy companies halted the production of 1.6 million oil barrels and airlifted workers from 90 offshore facilities on Friday and the storm ground through the site of 17 percent of the nation’s oil production.