The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH)

Hurricane Ida lands as category 4, 150 mph

- By Kevin Mcgill and Jay Reeves

NEW ORLEANS >> Hurricane Ida blasted ashore Sunday as one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the U.S., blowing off roofs and reversing the flow of the Mississipp­i River as it rushed from the Louisiana coast toward New Orleans and one of the nation’s most important industrial corridors.

The Category 4 storm 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. Ida’s 150-mph winds tied it for the fifth-strongest hurricane to ever hit the mainland U.S. It dropped hours later to a Category 3 storm with maximum winds of 120 mph as it inched closer to New Orleans.

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 under threat.

“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,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said.

People in Louisiana woke up to a monster storm after Ida’s top winds grew by 45 mph in five hours as the hurricane moved through some of the warmest ocean water in the world in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Wind tore at awnings, water spilled out of Lake Ponchartra­in in New Orleans, and boats broke loose from their moorings. Engineers

detected a “negative flow” on the Mississipp­i River as a result of storm surge, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Ricky Boyette said.

Edwards watched a live video feed from around Port Fourchon as Ida came ashore.

“The storm surge is just tremendous. We can see the roofs have been blown off of the port buildings in many places,” Edwards told the AP.

Officials said Ida’s swift intensific­ation from a few thundersto­rms to a massive hurricane in just three days left no time to organize a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans’ 390,000 residents. Mayor LaToya Cantrell urged residents remaining in the city on Sunday to “hunker down.”

Marco Apostolico said he felt confident riding out the storm at home in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, one of the city’s hardest-hit neighborho­ods when levees failed and released a torrent of floodwater during Katrina.

His home was among those rebuilt with the help of actor Brad Pitt to withstand hurricane-force winds. But the memory of Katrina still hung over the latest storm.

“It’s obviously a lot of heavy feelings,” he said. “And yeah, potentiall­y scary and dangerous.”

The region getting Ida’s worst includes petrochemi­cal sites and major ports, which could sustain significan­t damage. It is also an area that is already reeling from a resurgence of COVID-19 infections due to low vaccinatio­n rates and the highly contagious delta variant.

New Orleans hospitals planned to ride out the storm with their beds nearly full, as similarly stressed hospitals elsewhere had little room for evacuated patients. And shelters for those fleeing their homes carried an added risk of becoming flashpoint­s for new infections.

Forecaster­s warned winds stronger than 115 mph threatened Houma, a city of 33,000 that supports oil platforms in the Gulf.

The hurricane was threatenin­g neighborin­g Mississipp­i, where Katrina demolished oceanfront homes. With Ida approachin­g, Claudette Jones evacuated her home east of Gulfport, Mississipp­i, as waves started pounding the shore.

“I’m praying I can go back to a normal home like I left,” she said. “That’s what I’m praying for. But I’m not sure at this point.”

Comparison­s to the Aug. 29, 2005, landfall of Katrina weighed heavily on residents bracing for Ida. Katrina was

blamed for 1,800 deaths as it caused levee breaches and catastroph­ic flooding in New Orleans. Ida’s hurricane-force winds stretched 50 miles from the storm’s eye, or about half the size of Katrina, and a New Orleans’ infrastruc­ture official emphasized that the city is in a “very different place than it was 16 years ago.”

The levee system has been massively overhauled since Katrina, Ramsey Green, deputy chief administra­tive officer for infrastruc­ture, said before the worst of the storm hit. While water may not penetrate levees, Green said if forecasts of up to 20 inches of rain prove true, the city’s underfunde­d and neglected network of pumps, undergroun­d pipes and surface canals likely won’t be able to keep up.

About 590,000 customers were without power late Sunday afternoon, according to PowerOutag­e.US, which tracks outages nationwide.

The Louisiana Department of Environmen­tal Quality was in contact with more than 1,500 oil refineries,

chemical plants and other sensitive facilities and will respond to any reported pollution leaks or petroleum spills, agency spokesman Greg Langley said. He said the agency would deploy three mobile air-monitoring laboratori­es after the storm passes to sample, analyze and report any threats to public health.

Louisiana’s 17 oil refineries account for nearly onefifth of the U.S. refining capacity and its two liquefied natural gas export terminals ship about 55% of the nation’s total exports, according to the U.S. Energy Informatio­n Administra­tion. Government statistics show that 95% of oil and gas production in the Gulf Coast region was shut down as Ida made landfall on Sunday, according to energy company S&P Global Platts.

Louisiana is home to two nuclear power plants, one near New Orleans and another about 27 miles northwest of Baton Rouge.

President Joe Biden approved emergency declaratio­ns for Louisiana and Mississipp­i

ahead of Ida’s arrival. He said the country was praying for the best for Louisiana and would put its “full might behind the rescue and recovery” effort once the storm passes.

Edwards warned his state to brace for potentiall­y weeks of recovery.

“Many, many people are going to be tested in ways that we can only imagine today,” the governor told a news conference.

Reeves reported from Gulfport, Mississipp­i. Associated Press writers Rebecca Santana, Stacey Plaisance and Janet McConnaugh­ey in New Orleans; Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississipp­i; Jeff Martin in Marietta, Georgia; Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland; Frank Bajak in Boston; Michael Biesecker and Martin Crutsinger in Washington; Pamela Sampson and Sudhin Thanawala in Atlanta; and Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina, contribute­d to this report.

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 ?? STEVE HELBER — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Cars drive through flood waters along route 90as outer bands of Hurricane Ida arrive Aug. 29in Gulfport, Miss.
STEVE HELBER — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Cars drive through flood waters along route 90as outer bands of Hurricane Ida arrive Aug. 29in Gulfport, Miss.
 ?? ERIC GAY — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? A man passes by a section of roof that was blown off of a building Aug. 29in the French Quarter by Hurricane Ida winds in New Orleans.
ERIC GAY — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS A man passes by a section of roof that was blown off of a building Aug. 29in the French Quarter by Hurricane Ida winds in New Orleans.

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