More than 1 million homes and businesses were without power Monday across a swath of Louisiana and Mississippi as Ida, downgraded from a furious Category 4 hurricane to a tropical storm, still pounded the region with heavy rains and storm surge.
Ida, which roared onto the Gulf Coast near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, on Sunday with 150-mph winds, knocked out power to the entire city of New Orleans. On Monday morning the storm was centered over southwestern Mississippi.
Roofs were torn off buildings by the powerful winds, and there were reports of levees outside parish systems being overtopped. Some neighborhoods were swamped, and residents found 911 unreachable or unable to help amid the carnage.
Winds had decreased to about 60 mph but tropical storm-force winds extended out 150 miles. The storm was inching north at 8 mph, the slow roll driving up rainfall totals along Ida’s path.
“Dangerous storm surge, damaging winds and flash flooding continue,” the National Weather Service warned.
In Terrebonne Parish, southwest of New Orleans, Sheriff Timothy Soignet said electricity and water utilities are not functioning and all roads are blocked by down trees, utility poles and other debris. Terrebonne Parish is under a curfew until further notice and Soignet said no one should attempt to sightsee. Crews are working to clear debris and additional vehicles on the road will hinder progress, the sheriff said. First responders have not yet been able to reach certain parts of the parish, he added.
“Prayers are with the citizens and business owners of Terrebonne Parish in this difficult time,” Soignet said. “If you have evacuated, please don’t try to return yet and if you are in the parish, Shelter in place.”
– Keith Magill, The Courier
A U.S. Geological Survey gauge at Belle Chasse, south of New Orleans, detected the Mississippi’s flow moving backward around midday Sunday because of the amount of water Ida whipped up. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Ricky Boyette confirmed engineers detected a “negative flow” on the Mississippi River as a result of storm surge. Although rare, the river changing course is not unprecedented, occurring during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Isaac in 2012.
“I remember, off hand, that there was some flow reversal of the Mississippi River during Hurricane Katrina, but it is extremely uncommon,” Scott Perrien, a USGS hydrologist told CNN.
– Ryan Miller
More than 1 million utility customers in Louisiana and over 100,000 in Mississippi were without power Monday. The utility Entergy, citing Ida’s “catastrophic intensity,” said all eight transmission lines that deliver power into the New Orleans area were out of service. The company said it had provided back-up generation to the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, but that some homes could be without power for weeks.
Mayor Tim Kerner said much of the Town of Jean Lafitte, a community of 2,000 people just outside Jefferson Parish levee protection system, was underwater. Kerner told WGNO the levees were overtopped by rapidly rising water. Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng told the station that “people are in attics in Lower Lafitte.”
“Total devastation, catastrophic” Kerner said. “This is a very dangerous situation. I’ve never seen so much water in my life. We’ve lost our school and everything … People’s lives are I believe at stake now.
Kerner said the water swept over a 7.5-feet-high flood wall protecting the town, leaving some people at the mercy of the rushing water. When the weather breaks “we are going to send an army to them,” he said.
The Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office said deputies received a report Saturday night of a resident injured from a fallen tree in Prairieville. Deputies arrived on scene and confirmed that the victim had been killed, the office said on social media posts. More than 250 roads in the parish were closed because of downed trees or power lines, and the office urged everyone to stay home.
Through Tuesday morning, Ida could bring total rainfall accumulations of 10 to 18 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 24 inches, the weather service said. Heavy rain combined with storm surge has resulted in catastrophic impacts along the southeast coast of Louisiana with life-threatening flash flooding and “significant” river flooding continuing farther inland.
The center of Ida is forecast to move over central and northeastern Mississippi on Monday this afternoon and night and move across the Tennessee Valley on Tuesday. Additional rapid weakening is forecast during the next day or so, and Ida is expected to become a tropical depression by Monday evening. “Considerable” flash flooding is possible from the Lower Mississippi Valley through the Middle Tennessee Valley, Ohio Valley, Central/Southern Appalachians and into the Mid-Atlantic in coming days, the weather service says.