Sixteen years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana, the Gulf Coast state is dealing with the devastation caused by another powerful hurricane, Ida. Data from the United States Geological Survey released over the weekend puts the Category 4 storm’s strength in perspective, revealing it was powerful enough to force the Mississippi River to flow backward.
“The river reversal, as a whole, was very uncommon — Category 4 storms are even more uncommon,” said Scott Perrien, a supervising hydrologist with the USGS Lower Mississippi Gulf Water Science Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Perrien called this the second occurrence in recent history the river has backed up due to storm surge. The other was Hurricane Katrina.
, released by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change earlier this month, says human-generated carbon emissions are the likely reason were are seeing increases in uncommon, high intensity hurricanes like Ida.
The river reportedly reversed for about three hours on Sunday, when the violent hurricane first made landfall in Louisiana with high winds of 150 mph (241 kph). Perrien explained that the team recorded “data of up to a half a foot a second in the negative direction” after the water level rose roughly 7 feet (2.1 meters) during the storm.
Perrien noted, however, that the measuring gauge that caught the river’s flow reversal may not have detected deeper levels of water that could have remained drifting in the right direction.