Hurricane Ida "came in and did everything that was advertised, unfortunately," Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Monday as images of damage caused by one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the US mainland emerged. Rescuers set out in hundreds of boats and helicopters to reach people trapped by floodwaters and utility crews mobilized after the hurricane swamped the Louisiana coast and made a shambles of the electrical grid in New Orleans and beyond in the sweltering, late-summer heat, the AP reports. Ida was blamed for at least one death—a man hit by a falling tree outside Baton Rouge—but with many roads impassable and cellphone service knocked out in places, the full extent of its fury was still coming into focus. Officials warned it could be weeks before power is fully restored.
All of New Orleans lost power right around sunset Sunday as the hurricane blew ashore on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, leading to an uneasy night of pouring rain and howling wind. Four Louisiana hospitals were damaged and 39 medical facilities were operating on generator power, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said. More than a million customers in Louisiana and Mississippi were without power, according to PowerOutage, which tracks outages nationwide. "One-hundred percent of the grid is smashed, hundreds of telephone poles snapped, trees hit power lines and just ripped them out,” Jefferson Parish Emergency Director Joe Valiente told NPR. He said that the entire power grids collapsed in about 10 parishes and that it could take six weeks to fully restore power.
When daylight came in New Orleans, streets were littered with tree branches and some roads were blocked, but there were no immediate reports of the catastrophic flooding city officials had feared. It appeared that the levees that failed in 2005 during Katrina held up in Ida, the governor said. "For the most part, all of our levees performed extremely well—especially the federal levees—but at the end of the day the storm surge, the rain, the wind all had devastating impacts," Edwards said. "We have water systems that are out. We have tremendous damage to homes and to businesses." Ida weakened into a tropical storm overnight as it pushed inland over Mississippi with torrential rain and shrieking winds, its danger far from over.
(Read more Hurricane Ida