Hurricane Ida Lashes Louisiana as a Category 4 Storm
NEW ORLEANS—August 31, 2021—Hurricane Ida made landfall Sunday in Louisiana with sustained winds of 150 mph, just shy of Category 5 status. The wind uprooted trees, tore roofs from houses, and knocked out power to more than a million people in Louisiana and Mississippi. CNN reports at least four people have died. Ida is tied for the fifth strongest storm to strike the U.S. mainland.
In addition to wind and rain, Ida arrived with emotional baggage as well, striking 16 years to the day and just 45 miles away from where Hurricane Katrina came ashore in 2005, according to The Associated Press. Katrina overwhelmed New Orleans’ levee system, causing massive flooding that led to more than 1,800 deaths and $125 billion in damage. Hurricane Ida is the first serious test of the reengineered levee system around New Orleans.
Ida intensified rapidly, becoming a major hurricane in just a few days and leaving little time for residents to evacuate or prepare. The storm moved from Category 2 to Category 4 in just over an hour, according to The New York Times. This rapid intensification occurred as the storm approached shore, reaching the especially warm water of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have evacuated from the New Orleans area, but many stayed—some by choice and some due to limited options and resources. With hospitals across the state filled to capacity due to surging COVID-19 cases, there were few options for evacuating patients ahead of the storm and many hospitals were forced to ride it out.
By Sunday night, Hurricane Ida weakened to a Category 2 storm but continued to dump heavy rain. Forecasters expect the Gulf Coast to see eight to 16 inches of rain by Monday night, with some areas getting as much as 20 inches, according to The New York Times. Coastal and inland flooding remains a threat as Ida tracks northeast over the next several days.
As recovery from Ida begins, Louisiana is still struggling to recover from the 2020 hurricane season, when it was struck by three hurricanes and two tropical storms. Hurricane Ida also compounds the challenges of the pandemic, with Louisiana recording more COVID-19 deaths than at any other point in the pandemic. Additionally, CNN reports that more than two million people in Louisiana and Mississippi are under a heat advisory, facing heat indices up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit without air conditioning. More than a million people remain without power, and officials warn it could take weeks before power is fully restored to the region.