After Ida, small recovery signs amid destruction
NEW ORLEANS >> Lights came back on for a fortunate few, some corner stores opened their doors and crews cleared fallen trees and debris from a growing number of roadways Wednesday — small signs of progress amid the monumental task of repairing the damage inflicted by Hurricane Ida.
Still, suffering remained widespread three days after Ida battered Louisiana and parts of Mississippi as the fifth-most-powerful hurricane to strike the U.S. Some low-lying communities remained largely underwater. Roughly a million homes and businesses still had no electricity, and health officials said more than 600,000 people lacked running water.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said he was pleased that power had returned for some people, saying it was “critically important to show progress” after the storm. But he also acknowledged that much more work lay ahead.
“I’m very mindful that it’s a start, and only a start,” he told a news conference.
The death toll rose to at least six after a coroner confirmed a 65-yearold woman had drowned in her Louisiana home and police in Maryland said a 19-year-old man was found dead in an apartment complex flooded by heavy rain from Ida’s remnants. And the staggering scope of the disaster began to come into focus, with a private firm estimating total damage from Ida could exceed $50 billion.
Edwards said Louisiana was blessed to have only two deaths from Ida so far given the magnitude of the hurricane’s devastation.
In southern Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish, Gayle Lawrence lost two cars, refrigerators and almost everything in her garage to flood waters. Her garage was filled with marsh grass and dead fish. Scores of other homes in the neighborhood were also flooded.
“The house is solid. It didn’t even move. But when the water came up, it destroyed everything,” she said.
In Jefferson Parish, hospital staff, food bank employees and other critical workers were hampered by a gas shortage, said parish president Cynthia Lee Sheng. The parish neighbors New Orleans and saw widespread destruction from Ida. Authorities were still waiting for floodwaters to recede enough for trucks carrying food, water and repair supplies to begin moving into Lafitte and other low-lying communities.
“Today we’re a broken community. It won’t always be that way,” Sheng said after meeting with Edwards.
There were still 989,000 homes and businesses without power, or 44% of all state utility customers in southeast Louisiana, from the New Orleans area to Baton Rouge, according to the state Public Service Commission. Phillip May, president and CEO of Entergy Louisiana, told reporters Wednesday he predicts “a lot more progress” in coming days.