Hurricane Ida hit the US gulf last Sunday with a wind speed of 150 mph, making it the fifth strongest to ever hit mainland USA.
By early Tuesday about 1.3 million homes and businesses in the region were without power according to PowerOutage, which gathers data from U.S. utility companies.
Most of the areas affected are in Southern Louisiana, including all of New Orleans, whose residents are bracing for weeks without power after officials warn it could be a while before the power grid that was ravaged by the storm is repaired.
In addition to the damage to the power grid, the storm is responsible for the deaths of at least two people as of Wednesday morning- a person who was hit by a falling tree outside Baton Rouge and a motorist who drowned in New Orleans.
Officials have conceded that that number is likely to grow as search and rescue efforts continue, and even more so due to the lack of power.
Christina Stephens, a spokesperson for Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said that due to the level of destruction there will definitely be “many more confirmed fatalities.”
Many have likened the destruction caused by Ida to that of Hurricane Katrina, with power outages bringing commerce in New Orleans to a standstill in a similar way and restaurants facing an uncertain future due to lack of electricity and other infrastructure.
Councilman Deano Bonano commented to Reuters that in fact “the damage from this is far worse than Katrina from a wind standpoint.” saying that they would be without power for at least four to six weeks.
However, officials also say that the death toll would have been much higher in places like New Orleans had it not been for a fortified levee system around the city put in place in the wake of the devastation left by Katrina 16 years to the day prior.
Although Storm Ida is a stronger storm than Katrina, making landfall as a Category 4 Hurricane as opposed to Katrina’s Category 3, the failure of the levee system during Hurricane Katrina led to devastating floods that were far more catastrophic.
Luckily, it appears the rebuilt levees have largely worked as designed.
Tom Capella, who was chairman of the Jefferson Parish Council in 2005 during Katrina’s disastrous flooding, said that he had not heard of any such widespread flooding on Monday after Storm Ida.
“If you’re looking for the good news, the levees held.” He said “..I don’t see the complete and utter devastation of 6 feet of water in people’s houses like we had for Katrina.”
The storm was downgraded to a level 1 tropical storm on Monday afternoon as it continued to advance inland with torrential rain.
There are still fears, however, as forecasters said flash flooding and mudslides were possible along Ida’s route in the coming week before it blows out to the sea on Friday.
Photo via Associated Press News