Ida weakened to a tropical storm early Monday, and is moving to Mississippi as officials warned of life-threatening flash flooding and dangerous storm surges over parts of southeastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi, and southern Alabama. Tornado threats also continued across the central Gulf states, the National Weather Service said.
One person died on Sunday after being possibly injured from a fallen tree at a residence in Ascension Parish, the sheriff’s office said.
“I fully expect that the death count will go up considerably throughout the day,” Gov. John Bel Edwards told MSNBC on Monday, as search and rescue efforts were underway.
Edwards said the state’s levee system performed very well. There were no levee breaches or overtopping within the Greater New Orleans region, the Flood Protection Authority said Monday. That is a stark contrast to Hurricane Katrina 16 years ago, when the levee system failed and flooded large swaths of the city.
However, the storm surge, rain, and winds had “devastating impacts” across southeast Louisiana, Edwards said, adding that water systems were down and “virtually no one has electricity in this part of our state right now.”
Many 911 call centers throughout Louisiana were down, and people in New Orleans with emergencies were asked to go to their nearest fire station or flag down an officer.
More than 1,600 personnel have begun conducting search and rescue across the state, Edwards said. The National Guard has deployed over 5,200 personnel to help with rescue and relief efforts in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Alabama.
The Louisiana State Police warned stranded residents on Monday that “it may be difficult to get help to you for quite some time.”
“The full extent of damage is yet to be seen,” the agency said in a Facebook post, adding that search and rescue missions will begin once first responders are able to navigate through areas blocked by downed trees and power lines, along with debris and standing water.
The company said it will likely take days to determine the extent of the damage to the power grid in the city and “far longer” to restore electrical transmission in the region. Those in the hardest-hit areas could experience power outages for weeks, Entergy said.
As of Monday morning, a little over a million customers across the state were without power, according to PowerOutage.US. Power outages also affected more than 100,000 people in Mississippi.
At least 18 public water systems were experiencing water outages on Monday, affecting more than 312,000 people, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.
Even as the threat of severe weather had passed New Orleans, authorities warned residents that it was not safe to leave their homes on Monday.
The mayor of the town of Jean Lafitte said that its tidal surge levees had overtopped on Sunday night, leaving up to 200 people in “imminent danger,” according to the National Weather Service.
Some residents, trapped in their attics or rooftops, posted their addresses on social media in an attempt to be rescued.
“We know individuals are out there waiting to be rescued,” Edwards said, emphasizing that robust search-and-rescue efforts were ongoing at the federal, state, and local level.
Jefferson Parish received approximately 200 calls for rescue as people endured “a very, very long night,” Cynthia Lee Sheng, president of Jefferson Parish, told the Today Show.
She said a lot of “frantic” family members hadn’t heard from their loves one through the night as there was no power and communication lines were down.
A mandatory curfew is in effect for all of Jefferson Parish until at least 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday. Residents were asked to minimize wastewater leaving their homes to avoid overloading the sewer system, with power outages increasing the likelihood of sewerage backups.
In Lafourche Parish, re-entry will be delayed for up to a week, maybe longer, as roads were unpassable, the Parish said. Lafourche, which has a population of nearly 98,000, is also under a boil water advisory with many residents without water.
There were reports of damage and loss of power in hospitals that are already struggling with the deluge of COVID-19 patients — with some facilities having to move patients around, and others planning to evacuate dozens of patients to other hospitals.
The White House said that more than 3,600 FEMA employees have been deployed and 17 urban search and rescue teams, along with hundreds of air and ground ambulances, have been staged. FEMA has also deployed more than 3.4 million meals.
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