‘As bad as Katrina’: Ida roars into town
ORLEANS: The “lifethreatening” Hurricane Ida has battered the southern US state of Louisiana and has plunged New Orleans into total darkness, knocking out the city’s power 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.
Ida slammed into the Louisiana coast as a Category 4 storm and was downgraded to a Category 3 late Monday (AEST) – the same strength Katrina was when it came ashore in 2005.
Ida was packing maximum sustained winds of 175km/h, with gusts well above that.
“@EntergyNOLA has confirmed New Orleans has no power,” tweeted NOLA Ready, the city’s emergency preparedness program, referring to the area’s electricity provider.
“The only power in the city is coming from generators,” it added.
Ahead of Ida’s arrival, rain and strong winds swept New Orleans’ deserted streets, buffeting boarded-up windows at businesses and homes that have been sandbagged to help ward off the floodwaters.
Although the National Hurricane Centre downgraded Ida to a Category 3 storm, it warned the storm surge would create a “life-threatening situation” and urged residents in affected areas to “take all necessary actions to protect life and property”.
President Joe Biden also described Ida as “a life-threatening storm” that “continues to rage and ravage everything it comes into contact with”.
Earlier, Louisiana Governor John Edwards said Ida could be the most powerful storm to hit the hurricaneprone state since 1850.
“There is no doubt that the coming days and weeks are going to be extremely difficult,” he said, adding some people might have to shelter in place for up to 72 hours.
“Find the safest place in your house and stay there until the storm passes.”
Storm surges flooded the town of Grand Isle, on a barrier island south of New Orleans, and low-lying highways in the area were covered in water. Most residents had heeded warnings of catastrophic damage and authorities’ instructions to flee.
Roads leading out of New Orleans had bumper-tobumper traffic in the days preceding Ida’s arrival.
In one neighbourhood in eastern New Orleans, a few residents were completing preparations just hours before the storm hit. “I’m not sure if I’m prepared,” said Charles Fields as he brought his garden furniture indoors. “We just have to ride it out and see how it holds up,” added the 60-year-old who in 2005 saw Hurricane Katrina flood his house with 3.3m of water.
In St Bernard Parish, a large ferry boat broke free of its moorings and was being blown up the Mississippi River, according to local TV channel WWL, which posted a video of the stricken ferry.
Mr Edwards warned Ida would be “a very serious test for our levee systems” – an extensive network of pumps, gates and earthen and concrete barriers that was expanded after Katrina.
He told CNN that hundreds of thousands of residents were believed to have evacuated their homes.
The storm “presents some very challenging difficulties, with the hospitals being so full of Covid patients,” he said. With a low vaccination rate, Louisiana is among the states hit hardest by the pandemic.