New Orleans in darkness after Hurricane Ida knocks out power

New Orleans in darkness after Hurricane Ida knocks out power to entire city and saturated soil turns parts of city into ‘brown ocean’ : Ida downgraded to tropical storm as it leaves carnage in its wake

  • More than 1 million people were without power through Louisiana and Mississippi on Monday
  • Hurricane Ida flooded much of New Orleans, overpowering the levees which were strengthened after Hurricane Katrina hit the area 16 years ago
  • The only power coming into the city was from generators, sparking fears people could poison themselves with carbon monoxide
  • Meanwhile the storm was weakened to a tropical storm as it passed over Mississippi on Monday. Flood warnings are in place for Mississippi, with Tennessee, and Kentucky
  • A 60 year-old man was killed Sunday after a tree fell on his home, although many others are feared trapped  

Ida left more than 1 million people without power through Louisiana and Mississippi as it dumped torrential rain on the area, flooding much of New Orleans before being downgraded to a tropical storm Monday.

All of New Orleans lost power around sunset on Sunday, leaving people without refrigeration and air conditioning in the hot summer weather, as they used flashlights to search through the damage as the storm passed by around dawn.

Figures from power supplier Entergy confirmed that 144,000 homes were without power in the Big Easy. A further 195,000 are without power in nearby Jefferson Parish, while 80,000 are without power in St Tamany Parish.

A total of 950,000 homes have lost power across Louisiana as of Monday morning, with another 100,000 without electricity in Mississippi as the 911 system in Orleans Parish experienced technical difficulties for a second day in a row.

Ida is now set to move across Mississippi – sparking flood warnings for that state though Tuesday.

The weather event will cross the north east tip of Alabama and into Tennessee in the early hours of Tuesday, with locals warned to prepare for flash floods caused by heavy rain, and winds of up to 60mph.  

The outage in New Orleans was caused by a tower toppled by Ida, with energy suppliers warning that power will be off indefinitely while damage assessments are carried out – and that locals could face weeks before it returns.  

Entergy confirmed the only power in New Orleans was coming from generators, the city’s Office of Homeland Security and Energy Preparedness tweeted, citing ‘catastrophic transmission damage.’ The city relies on Entergy for backup power for the pumps for the levees.  

That has sparked fears locals could poison themselves by attempting to use the generators – which emit dangerous carbon monoxide – in poorly ventilated indoor areas.  One person has been killed so far, an unidentified victim who died when a tree fell onto their home in Prairieville, Louisiana, on Sunday. 

Greg Nazarko, manager of the Bourbon Bandstand bar on Bourbon Street, stands outside the club, where he rode out the storm, which left New Orleans without power on Monday

A police officer patrols past woman walking along Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. Anyone in need of emergency help was asked to go to their local patrol officer or go to their nearest fire station

Police used flashlights early Monday to look through debris after a building collapsed from the effects of Hurricane Ida

Downtown buildings were lit up by backup generators as nearly 1 million people remained without power

Figures from power supplier EntEnergy confirmed that 144,000 homes were without power in the Big Easy. A further 195,000 are without power in nearby Jefferson Parish, while 80,000 are without power in St Tamany Parish

The storm caused all eight transmission lines into New Orleans to go down, and created a load imbalance that knocked all power generation into the region offline, Entergy spokesman Brandon Scardigli said in a statement to Nola.com.

He said the company is working to ‘assess a path forward to restore power to those who can take it.’

Additionally, officials in Jefferson Parish said a transmission tower that provides electricity for New Orleans and the east bank of the parish collapsed into the river.

The parish’s Emergency Management Director told WVUE that cables that once hung across the Mississippi River were now buried under water.

Meanwhile, the levees – which had been upgraded since Hurricane Katrina devastated the area exactly 16 years ago – once again failed or were overtopped, leaving houses flooded with saturated sail turning parts of the city into a phenomenon known as brown ocean.

It pushed so much water from the gulf inland that engineers detected a ‘negative flow’ on the Mississippi River, Army Corps of Engineers Spokesman Ricky Boyette said. 

Anyone needing emergency help was urged to go to their nearest fire station or approach their nearest officer. 

Some people also took to social media to post their addresses and locations, asking for help, with officials promising rescue efforts would begin in the early morning hours of Monday, as it moved into Mississippi. 

In a Sunday news conference, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said rescue crews would not be able to immediately help those who were stranded, and warned the state could see weeks of recovery.

‘Many, many people are going to be tested in ways that we can only imagine today,’ he said, but added: ‘There is always light after darkness, and I can assure you we are going to get through this. 

The outage in New Orleans was caused by a tower toppled by Ida, with energy suppliers warning that power will be off indefinitely while damage assessments are carried out

The levees – which were strengthened after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – failed and were overrun

Montegut fire chief Toby Henry walks back to his fire truck in the rain as firefighters cut through trees on the road in Bourg, Louisiana as Hurricane Ida passed over the town on Sunday

A blown down sign lies on the street along Bourbon Street in the French Quarter

The storm left the Buddy Bolden mural on the wall of The Little Gem Saloon in tatters

As daylight hit, authorities launched teams to conduct search and rescue operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. The credible reports paint a terrible picture on the ground, Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee said.

‘Unfortunately, the worst case scenario seems to have happened,’ Lee said, adding that some houses are flooded with water that’s ‘beyond chest high. It’s up to the top of the roof.’

The weather conditions and power outages made it tough for teams to work overnight.

‘This is an area that has a lot of swampland, alligators, very dangerous conditions. They had to wait for the sun to come up this morning. They had a strategy,’ Lee explained. ‘We have people out there ready to clear roads. We’re going to have boats, high-water vehicles. Our first responders are ready to go. They just needed the daylight to be able to do their best work.’  

The storm slammed the barrier island of Grand Isle and blew off the roofs of buildings around Port Fourchon as it made landfall early Sunday morning as it churned its way through the southern Louisiana wetlands, over the state’s petrochemical corridor and threatened more than 2 million people living in and around New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

Many did not have enough money or resources to flee from the fast-approaching storm.

By late Sunday, significant flooding was reported in LaPlace and in places like LaFitte, where a barge struck a swinging bridge. 

The United States Coast Guard office in the region received more than a dozen reports of breakaway barges, Petty Officer Gabriel Wisdom told the Associated Press.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality was also in contact with more than 1,500 oil refineries, chemical plants and other petrochemical plants, and will respond to any reported pollution leaks or petroleum spills, agency spokesman Greg Langley said.

The Louisiana National Guard sent in nearly 5,000 guardsmen, staged 195 high-water vehicles, 73 rescue boats and 34 helicopters ready to assist in the recovery efforts, it tweeted last night, with guardsmen beginning search and rescue missions in LaPlace this morning.

Now a tropical storm, Ida is expected to make its way through the Mid-South, Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast in the coming days, dropping three to six inches of rain along its way

The storm’s top wind speed on Monday was 60 mph, and forecasters expect it will weaken drastically as it dumps rain on Mississippi. 

It was centered about 95 miles south-southwest of Jackson, Mississippi this morning and is expected to bring strong winds throughout the day, which could knock out the power for even more residents.

A tornado risk will also continue to the east of the center of circulation, according to FOX News, and heavy rain is going to be the biggest concern as the remnants move into the Mid-South, Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast in the coming days.

Three to six inches of rain is expected along Ida’s path, including through southern New England, where the ground is already saturated from Tropical Storm Henri one week ago.  

Too poor to flee Ida: Low income families who can’t afford gas or a hotel are forced to stay home and risk being killed by hurricane 

 Some low income families in Louisiana are being forced to stay at their homes in Hurricane Ida’s wake because they can’t afford the gas or hotel room to relocate somewhere safer.    

Such was the case for Robert Owens, 27, who recalled the ‘terrifying feeling’ of watching lines of cars fleeing from Baton Rouge, where he lives with his wife, mother-in-law, a roommate and four pets.    

‘Our bank account is empty – we can´t afford to leave,’ he said.  

Out of desperation, Owens went to ACE Cash Express on Saturday and submitted documents for a payday loan. He was denied, however, and told he didn´t have enough credit history.

Hurricane Ida reached the US mainland at 11.55am on Sunday, swamping the barrier island of Grand Isle as landfall came just to the west at Port Fourchon, Louisiana. At that point, Owens realized that his family would have to ride out the storm in their duplex apartment.  

Owens said the majority of people in his low-income neighborhood are in the same predicament. They want to leave to protect families, but have no choice but to stay.

‘A lot of us here in my neighborhood have to just hunker down and wait, not knowing how bad it´s going to get,’ he said.  

Many residents struggled to evacuate to safer locations, but others lacked the funds to do so and had to stay in their homes and hope for the best. Above, a car got stuck in the storm’s floodwaters in Bay St Louis, Mississippi 

One included Robert Owens, 27, of Baton Rouge, said he feared the storm’s 150mph winds would rip the roof off his duplex apartment

 Hurricane Ida reached the US mainland at 11.55am on Sunday, swamping the barrier island of Grand Isle as landfall came just to the west at Port Fourchon, Louisiana

A young girl blocked her face from the wind and rain produced by Hurricane Ida on Sunday in New Orleans

‘There people who have funds to lean on are able to get out of here, but there´s a big chunk of people that are lower-income that don´t have a savings account to fall on,’ he continued. ‘We´re left behind.’  

By Sunday night at 9pm, Owens said his family and all others in his neighborhood had lost power. The sky was lighting up green from transformers blowing up all around them, he said. 

Several trees had collapsed on neighbor’s properties, but it was too dark to see the full extent of the damage. Owens said they were trying to use a flashlight to survey the street, but were wary of jeopardizing their safety.

‘Never in my life have I encountered something this major,’ he said as giant gusts rattled his home’s windows.

Meanwhile, about 30 miles southeast, authorities announced the storm’s first death after a 60-year-old man died when a tree fell on his home in Ascension Parish on Sunday night.    

By Monday morning, more than 1 million customers in Louisiana lost power –  including thousands in Baton Rouge – according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks outages nationwide. 

Owens said there were a few times when it sounded like the roof of his duplex might come off. He said his wife was packing a bag of clothes and essentials, just in case.

‘We’ll shelter in the car if we lose the house,’ he said. The family all share his wife’s Toyota Avalon, a vehicle ‘not nearly big enough’ to shelter four people, three dogs and a cat.

A utility worker photographed waves as they slammed against a sea wall on Sunday

A man took pictures of high waves along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain as Hurricane Ida neared on Sunday

Earlier in the day, Owens said he was hurriedly placing towels under leaking windows in his duplex and charging electronics. He tried to go to Dollar General and Dollar Tree to pick up food, but they were closed. His family has lights glued around the walls of the house. They planned to hide in the laundry room or the kitchen when the storm hits – places without windows.

‘There´s a general feeling of fear in not knowing what´s going to be the aftermath of this,’ he said. ‘That´s the most concerning thing. Like, what are we going to do if it gets really bad? Will we still be alive? Is a tree going fall on top of us?’

Owens said his mother-in-law is on disability. His roommates both work for Apple iOS tech support. His wife works scheduling blood donations. All of them rely on the internet to work from home, and if it goes out, they won´t be able to bring in any money.

‘We might be without work, and rent, power, water, all of those bills will still be needing to get paid,’ he said. ‘We are a little bit concerned about losing our utilities or even our house – if it’s still standing – because we´re not going to have the money for any other bills.’

He said it’s hard to feel so vulnerable, like his family is getting left behind.

‘The fact that we are not middle class or above, it just kind of keeps coming back to bite us over and over again, in so many different directions and ways – a simple pay-day advance being one of them,’ he said. ‘It´s like we´re having to pay for being poor, even though we´re trying to not be poor.

 

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