Hurricane Ida weakened to a tropical storm early Monday as it moved to Mississippi, but not before battering Louisiana—it is tied for the fifth-strongest hurricane to hit the mainland U.S.—leaving at least one person dead, more than 1 million customers without power, and unknown damage being assessed now that the storm has moved on.
“Having those high winds for several hours, that storm surge for several hours, as well as the intense rainfall, and I think as we get up this morning, we're hearing reports, but we're going to see even more destruction," FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said on MSNBC. "This is going to be a really long recovery.”
Contribute now to support Hurricane Ida relief efforts.
“As the sun comes out this morning, please remain where you are,” Gov. John Bel Edwards tweeted Monday morning. “#Ida has left many hazards across Louisiana including flooded roadways, debris & downed powerlines.”
For an unknown number of people, “where you are” means the attic, where some families retreated to escape from rising water flooding the lower levels of their homes. “When we got in the attic, the water was right below my knees," LaPlace resident Tiffany Miller told local news WDSU. "For the water to get that high in my house, the water outside needs to be at least waist deep.”
Complicating the immediate rescue and recovery effort was the fact that not only was New Orleans left without power starting Sunday evening, but 911 systems in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish weren’t working. “At this time, 9-1-1 is experiencing technical difficulties. If you find yourself in an emergency, please go to your nearest fire station or approach your nearest officer,” the Orleans Parish Communication District tweeted. By contrast, Jefferson Parish advised people to stay where they were because travel was difficult. And, of course, if you’re trapped in the attic, “go to your nearest fire station” is really not possible.
Sorting out the damage under the circumstances will be difficult—already, there have been conflicting reports about whether some levees have failed or simply been overtopped. And the hurricane’s path through an area dense with chemical plants raises concerns. Other hurricanes in recent years have led to fires and chemical or oil leaks.
One piece of good news as the recovery gets underway is that congressional Democrats have learned the lessons of the past, and included $50 billion for the FEMA disaster relief fund in the COVID-19 relief package. That means that congressional Republicans can’t hold up relief funding as they’ve done for past disasters—though, since the states affected are largely represented by Republicans, it’s less likely they would have opposed funding for this specific disaster. But, of course, every single Republican voted against the American Rescue Plan, including its FEMA funding.