Widespread power outages confront Louisiana and Mississippi after Ida.
The lashing winds have ceased and the downpours have stopped, but despite Hurricane Ida’s departure from Louisiana, recovery is far away for a state that is no stranger to storms and their aftermath.
The governor warned that residents would face more challenges on Tuesday and beyond, including widespread power outages and the risk of deadly accidents if generators are misused. Local officials, including Mayor LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans and Cynthia Lee Sheng, the Jefferson Parish president, asked residents who evacuated their homes not to return until it was announced safe to do so.
“This is not the community that you left,” Ms. Lee Sheng said at a news conference. “I know you’re anxious to check your homes, but we are asking that everybody not come home yet. We cannot provide you the modern amenities that you’re used to.”
In Jefferson Parish, repairs need to be made to water lines, sewer systems and electrical grids, Ms. Lee Sheng said.
“I liken it to calling it a system breakdown,” she said.
The struggles were similar across southeastern Louisiana, but one of the greatest concerns was restoring power. More than a million customers were without power on Tuesday, including much of New Orleans, where all eight transmission lines that deliver power to the city were knocked out of service.
In Mississippi, about 60,000 customers lacked electricity, according to reports compiled by PowerOutage.us.
Entergy, a major power company in Louisiana, said on Monday that it would most likely “take days to determine the extent of damage to our power grid and far longer to restore electrical transmission to the region.”
Sweltering temperatures were compounding the misery of those without electricity. Heat advisories were in effect for parts of southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi for much of the day on Tuesday, when the heat index — a measure of how hot it really feels — expected to reach as high as 106 degrees.
On Monday, Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said at a news conference that there were more questions than answers about recovery.
“I can’t tell you when the power is going to be restored,” he said. “I can’t tell you when all the debris is going to be cleaned up and repairs made and so forth.”
Despite the challenges, New Orleans could rejoice that the levee system designed after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to protect the city from flooding did its job.
“We held the line, New Orleans,” Ms. Cantrell said on Twitter. “The dollars invested into our levee system from state & federal partners were not in vain. However, moving forward we must repair our broken power grid.”
At least five deaths have been attributed to the storm, officials said: A man died while driving in New Orleans; a woman was found dead in the fishing village of Jean Lafitte, south of the city; and a man was killed in Prairieville, about 20 miles southeast of Baton Rouge, where a tree fell on a house. In Mississippi, two people were killed and 10 were injured when a highway collapsed.
Ida, which weakened into a tropical depression on Monday afternoon, was expected to move over the Middle Tennessee Valley, Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic through Wednesday, with the potential to bring three to six inches of rain to those regions, the National Hurricane Center said.
Counties across Middle Tennessee were under a flash flood watch through early Wednesday, meaning that conditions were favorable for flooding, including in the area still reeling from severe flooding after remnants of Tropical Storm Fred.
Although it might take days or weeks to recover from Ida, Ms. Lee Sheng reminded residents that many in Jefferson Parish who were assisting with current recovery efforts had done the same after Hurricane Katrina.
“I know we have been through a lot as a community, I know sometimes I think we’re feeling like we’re tested,” she said. “But make no mistake, we are battered, but we will not be broken.”
Because of what they had gone through after Hurricane Katrina, when they were only teenagers, Terrell Reynolds, 33, and Kortney Lindsey, 32, evacuated to Houston with their four children and two other relatives before Ida struck.
But now they are frantic, unsure when they can return to their jobs in New Orleans and their apartment in the city’s Lower Ninth Ward. Officials told them not to return because the city has no electricity for the foreseeable future. Public schools are closed until further notice.
“We’re borrowing money to pay for a room for tonight,” said Mr. Reynolds, adding that many other people in the hotel were in a similar position.
Even if they get financial assistance, the family would need to clean out its refrigerator and recover some toys and clothes before feeling comfortable staying away from home. Mr. Reynolds said he also wanted to pick up the beaded patches he was sewing for an elaborate Mardi Gras suit.
“We didn’t prepare to stay away for a long time,” he said. “No one thought it was going to be like this.”
— Katy Reckdahl
Ida’s powerful winds shredded much of LaPlace, a city west of New Orleans, where rescue crews on Monday were using one street as a launch ramp for their boats.
Shopping centers looked pulverized with their roofs shorn off and their parking lots covered in debris. Utility poles and trees had splintered. Traffic lights dangled over intersections, hanging by a thread.
Those who rode out the hurricane there described a harrowing encounter with the storm’s force, with wind kicking up water to create a blinding mist.
“It was zero to 60 — quick, real quick,” a local rapper who performs as O.G. Purpin said as he and a friend carried a barbecue grill out of the flooded neighborhood.
“This was Katrina times two,” said his friend, who gave his name as Jeff.
On Sunday night, the rapper had huddled with his girlfriend, her family and their pets in an attic as the storm swirled around the house. It was early in the morning when rescuers came by and pulled them to safety.
— Rick Rojas
Alani, 5, was not ready to be consoled outside the civic center turned hurricane shelter in Houma, playing with a stick she had found in a nearby pile of debris.
“She doesn’t want to be around nobody,” said her mother, Alexis Johnson, who is in her 20s. “I just tell her: Everything is going to be fine. We just have to believe in God.”
The family is one of many that sought shelter when Hurricane Ida spread misery throughout southeastern Louisiana.
In this city of about 33,000 people 60 miles from New Orleans, the storm leveled buildings, smashed trees into houses and filled entire blocks with debris. Thousands remained without power, food, gas and, more important, a sense of security, residents said.
Ida’s wrath arrived at Ms. Johnson’s mobile home on Sunday afternoon. She had been lying in bed listening to the walls tremble, she recalled, when the roof peeled off. She held on to Alani and fled for the shelter as soon as it felt safe.
Hours later, they sat under the baking sun wondering about their next steps.
“I can’t go home,” Ms. Johnson said. “We have nothing left.”
— Edgar Sandoval
Jefferson Parish, La.
Craig Mills was grateful his family did not evacuate, choosing instead to battle the storm from his sister’s home in a Jefferson Parish suburb of New Orleans.
“We had a couple small leaks in the house,” he said. “So if we hadn’t been here, it would have been extensive water damage if that water started coming in.”
While there has been no damage to the house or flooding, the family did lose power at 8:45 a.m. Sunday, before Hurricane Ida made landfall. On Monday, Mr. Mills drove to a Lowe’s in search of cellphone reception.
Mr. Mills said the motivation for staying put included the knowledge that the house had withstood damage from Hurricane Katrina, as well as concern about the number of people in New Orleans who are not vaccinated for the coronavirus.
“Escaping for escape’s sake wasn’t necessarily the answer,” he said.
As the family hunkered down, the biggest concern was rationing food and gas while waiting for power to be restored. There was enough for a week’s worth of meals, and the family was relying on a generator.
“We have two containers for gas,” he said, “and we are trying to conserve energy to keep the fridge cool, and use the fan every once in a while.”
— Giulia Heyward
The remnants of Hurricane Ida were expected to bring stormy conditions to a large swath of the United States, from Tennessee to Massachusetts, over the next few days.
As of 5 a.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, Ida, now downgraded to a tropical depression, was in northern Mississippi and about 185 miles southwest of Nashville, moving toward the northeast at 12 miles per hour. The storm was producing heavy rain and had maximum sustained winds of 30 m.p.h., according to the National Hurricane Center.
“The flooding threat is definitely not ended,” the National Weather Service in Nashville said. “Please stay vigilant.”
Ida was expected to push toward the northeast on Tuesday, the center said, producing heavy rain and a flood threat from the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys to the Mid-Atlantic States through Wednesday.
A flash flood watch was in effect through Tuesday night for portions of Middle Tennessee, where up to six inches of rain was expected. Prolonged heavy rainfall could lead to flash flooding, the center said.
“A considerable amount of rain has already fallen and there are flood advisories currently in effect for portions of Middle Tennessee,” the Weather Service said. At least 21 people were killed this month when a catastrophic flash flood swept through a rural area west of Nashville.
The western edge of North Carolina was also under a flash flood watch through Wednesday afternoon.
As the storm makes its way northeast, much of Kentucky, the southern portion of Ohio, West Virginia, a large swath of Virginia and points up to Massachusetts were also under a flash flood watch through at least Thursday. Areas across southern New England could see up to four inches of rain, with some isolated higher amounts, from Wednesday into Thursday.
There was also a threat for a few tornadoes on Tuesday across eastern Alabama, western Georgia, and the Florida Panhandle. The threat will shift to portions of the Mid Atlantic on Wednesday.
The most intense hurricane on record to strike Louisiana swept through one of the nation’s largest chemical, petroleum and natural gas hubs. And while it may take days or weeks for the full extent of the storm’s impact to become clear, early reports of damage have heightened concerns over the vulnerability of the region’s fossil fuel infrastructure to intensifying storms.
On Monday, officials warned that floodwaters had spilled over a temporary levee erected near a Phillips 66 refinery in Plaquemines, the state’s southernmost parish and one of the most severely affected by Hurricane Katrina 16 years ago. In neighboring St. Bernard Parish, almost two dozen barges unmoored by Hurricane Ida’s 150-mile-per-hour winds damaged the dock at the giant Valero Refinery. News photos showed extensive flooding and dark flares at Shell’s refining and chemical complex in Norco, farther inland.
Earlier hurricanes, including Harvey in 2017 and Laura in 2020, caused oil and chemical releases from storage tanks and other installations along the coast.
Bernardo Fallas, a spokesman for Phillips 66, said the company would “conduct a post-storm assessment of the refinery and its levees when it is safe to do so.” The refinery “completed a safe and orderly shutdown of operations” ahead of Ida’s arrival, he said.
Louisiana’s 17 oil refineries account for nearly one-fifth of the nation’s refining capacity, with the ability to process about 3.4 million barrels of crude oil per day, according to the United States Energy Information Administration. In 2020, Louisiana’s two liquefied natural gas export terminals shipped out about 55 percent of the nation’s L.N.G. exports.
Much of that capacity was built after Katrina, and plans are in the works for a dozen more liquefied natural gas export terminals in the region — including at Port Fourchon, where Ida made landfall on Sunday. Environmental groups have criticized those plans, saying they contribute to the very climate crisis that poses a threat to those facilities.
In normal times, the devastation of a massive hurricane like Ida tends to be followed by an aggressive rebuilding effort, as carpenters, roofers and other skilled workers descend on affected communities to repair the damage.
These are not normal times.
With the global supply chain besieged by trouble — extreme shipping delays, persistent product shortages and soaring costs — construction teams are likely to struggle to secure needed goods. At the same time, the hurricane’s damage to critical industries in the Gulf Coast area and the urgent need to rebuild are expected to cascade through the country’s already strained shipping infrastructure.
“The supply was already terrible,” said Eric Byer, the president of the National Association of Chemical Distributors, a trade association representing 400 companies that make and sell raw materials used in a vast array of industries, including construction and pharmaceuticals. “Now, it’s going to be worse.”
For months, a surge of trade from Asia to the United States has exhausted the supply of shipping containers, forcing buyers to pay 10 times the usual rate on popular routes like Shanghai to Los Angeles.
As dockworkers have contracted Covid or have landed in quarantine, loading and unloading at ports has been constrained. The pandemic has sidelined truck drivers, limiting the availability of vehicles that can carry products from ports to warehouses to customers.
Hurricane Ida will almost certainly make this situation worse, as available trucks are diverted en masse toward affected communities to deliver relief supplies. No one questions the merits of this course, but it will leave even fewer trucks available to carry goods everywhere else, intensifying already-profound shortages.
“The domestic trucking situation has been bad for some time, and the hurricane will add to that,” said Megan Gluth-Bohan, the chief executive of TRInternational, an importer and distributor of chemicals just outside Seattle. “You’re going to see more logjams at the ports.”
Her company relies on a supplier in Taiwan for hydrocarbon resins, selling them to American manufacturers that make paints, varnishes and other coatings. She brings in chemicals from Thailand that are included in industrial cleaning products and imports glycols, which are used in food products, makeup, and industrial coatings.
“These are the raw materials that make everything,” Ms. Gluth-Bohan said.
Ms. Gluth-Bohan was still assessing the impact of Ida on her industry, but it seemed obvious that the rebuilding effort would face challenges as the availability of necessary supplies becomes even tighter.
“It’s going to have a significant impact,” she said. “Companies that make coatings, paint, shingles or treated lumber — a lot of these companies are going to have to slow down.”
Part of the impact is a result of where the storm landed. The Gulf Coast is home to refineries and plants that make all manner of industrial chemicals — a fact brought home last winter, when an intense freeze in the region knocked factories out of commission, causing product shortages that still endure.
In Ida’s wake, the plastics industry was girding for another jump in prices that were already at record highs.
The Royale Group, which manufactures and distributes chemicals from its base near Wilmington, Del., buys only a small percentage of its supplies from plants on the Gulf of Mexico. But that is no comfort, said the company’s chief executive, John Logue, because shortages of a single ingredient can be enough to halt production of many items.
The auto industry has been severely constrained by a persistent shortage of computer chips. Similarly, Mr. Logue’s company, which relies heavily on suppliers in China and India, has for weeks been unable to complete an order for a pharmaceutical company because it is waiting for one raw material.
“Any hiccup in the supply chain right now just adds fuel to the disaster,” Mr. Logue said. “We are not manufacturing what we want to manufacture. We are manufacturing what we are able to manufacture.”
A Louisiana man was missing and presumed dead after an alligator attacked him on Monday in an area that was flooded during Hurricane Ida, the authorities said.
A woman said that at about noon on Monday, her 71-year-old husband was attacked by an alligator while walking in knee-high floodwaters at their home in the city of Slidell, about 30 miles northeast of New Orleans on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain, according to the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Capt. Lance Vitter of the Sheriff’s Office said the man had gone to check on his belongings in a storage area below the house.
The woman, whose name was not released, told deputies that she was inside her home when she heard a commotion and splashing. When she went outside, she saw a large alligator attacking her husband, the Sheriff’s Office said.
“When she opened up the door, the alligator had him in the death roll,” Captain Vitter said on Tuesday.
After the attack, which resulted in the loss of one of the man’s arms, the woman pulled him out of the floodwaters and returned inside to gather first aid supplies, the Sheriff’s Office said.
When she realized the severity of his injuries, she got into a boat to seek help, about a mile away. Captain Vitter said 911 wasn’t working at the time and that she couldn’t call for help. When she returned, her husband was gone, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Deputies’ efforts to find the man were unsuccessful, and the incident remains under investigation.
Captain Vitter said the couple’s home is surrounded by marsh and in an area that is well known to have alligators.
“It was not uncommon for people to see alligators seven feet or longer,” he said.
In a statement, Sheriff Randy Smith of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office warned residents to be “extra vigilant” while walking in flooded areas because the storm may have displaced wildlife, causing alligators and other animals to move closer into neighborhoods.
Louisiana and Florida have the largest alligator populations in the United States, with more than one million wild alligators in each state, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Alligators are most common in Louisiana’s coastal marshes but can also be found in ponds, lakes, canals, rivers, swamps and bayous.
At least five other deaths — three in Louisiana and two in Mississippi — have been attributed to the storm, officials said.
Local and national volunteers and aid groups are prepared to rescue, feed, and give shelter to those who have been affected by Hurricane Ida and its aftermath. Here is some guidance for those who wish to help.
Natural disasters create ripe opportunities for fraudsters who prey on vulnerable people in need and exploit the generous impulses of others who want to donate funds to help them. The Federal Communications Commission noted that scammers use phone calls, text messages, email and postal mail, and even go door-to-door. The Federal Trade Commission has tips on how to spot a fraudulent charity or fund-raiser.
If you suspect that an organization or individual is engaged in fraudulent activity after a natural disaster, report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud, or to FEMA at 1-866-720-5721.
Donations of money, rather than of goods, are usually the best way to help, because they are more flexible and can readily be redirected when needs change.
All Hands and Hearts prepared for Ida by stationing its disaster assessment and response team in Beaumont, Texas. Its volunteers will enter areas affected by the storm when they can, meeting initial needs that will probably include chain-saw work to clear debris and trees, roof tarping, mucking and gutting flooded houses, and sanitizing homes with mold contamination.
The Second Harvest Food Bank, which serves South Louisiana, has prepared more than 3,500 disaster-readiness food boxes with items like rehydration drinks and nutrition bars, as well as bottled water. It also maintains cooking equipment that can be transported to heat prepared meals. Donations of bottled water and cleaning supplies are welcome. Volunteers can apply to help, but donations of money are the most efficient way to assist the aid effort, the organization said.
AirLink is a nonprofit humanitarian flight organization that ships aid, emergency workers and medical personnel to communities in crisis. It has joined Operation BBQ Relief to supply equipment, cooks and volunteers to prepare meals for people affected by the storm. Donations are welcome.
SBP, originally known as the St. Bernard Project, was founded in 2006 by a couple in St. Bernard Parish who were frustrated by the slow response after Hurricane Katrina. It focuses on restoring damaged homes and businesses and supporting recovery policies. Its Hurricane Ida plan needs donations, which will pay for supplies for home rebuilding and protective equipment for team members.
A number of volunteer rescue groups operate under some variation of the name Cajun Navy. One is Cajun Navy Relief, a volunteer disaster response team that became a formal nonprofit organization in 2017; it has provided relief and rescue services during more than a dozen of Louisiana’s floods, hurricanes and tropical storms. The team has identified supplies that are needed and is accepting donations.
Rebuilding Together New Orleans, which uses volunteer labor to repair homes, accepts donations to help with its work. The organization has also created an online wish list, and a hotline number: (844) 965-1386.
AmeriCares, a health-focused relief and development organization, is responding to Ida in Louisiana and Mississippi and matching donations. Vito Castelgrande, the leader of its Hurricane Ida team, said the organization would begin assessing damage in the hardest-hit communities when it is safe to travel.
Mercy Chefs, a Virginia-based nonprofit group, was founded in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the hometown of its founder, Gary LeBlanc. The organization has served more than 15 million meals to people affected by natural disasters or who have other needs. The group has deployed two mobile kitchens to serve hot meals in Ida’s wake and is accepting donations.
GoFundMe has created a centralized hub with verified GoFundMe fund-raisers to help those affected by Ida. It will be updated on a regular basis with new fund-raisers as they are verified.
Project HOPE has sent an emergency response team with 11 medical volunteers and has distributed 8,000 hygiene kits, which include items like shampoo, soap, a toothbrush, deodorant and first-aid supplies. Donations can be made solely for Hurricane Ida emergency relief.
The Red Cross has mobilized hundreds of trained disaster workers and relief supplies to support people in evacuation shelters. About 600 volunteers were prepared to support Ida relief efforts, and shelters have been opened in Louisiana and Mississippi, with cots, blankets and comfort kits, and ready-to-eat meals. The organization has also positioned products needed for blood transfusions. Donations can be made through redcross.org, or 800-RED-CROSS, or by texting the word REDCROSS to 90999.
United Way of Southeast Louisiana is collecting donations for a relief fund to rebuild and provide long-term assistance, including community grants.