Hurricane Ida was on course to smash ashore in southeastern Louisiana at mid-day Sunday as a monster with top winds expected to hit 155 mph, and pushing a life-threatening storm surge of 16 feet topped by devastating waves.
Two feet of expected rainfall began to dump early Sunday along the coast, with the first sprays reaching nearly empty New Orleans streets before dawn.
By 1 p.m., the storm was due to be just northwest of Port Fourchon, its core set on a path over Houma toward an expected 1 a.m. arrival Monday in Baton Rouge — where it would remain at hurricane strength with top winds of 80 mph and possible triple-digit gusts.
Catastrophic Ida arrived 16 years to the day after the New Orleans region was pummeled by Hurricane Katrina, still the most expensive hurricane in U.S. history.
In St. Charles Parish, one of three coastal parishes to order mandatory parishwide evacuations in the swift leadup to Hurricane Ida’s landing, the scenario had only grown worse overnight as the storm nudged east.
The National Weather Service has issued an extreme wind warning for much of southeast Louisiana, with forecasters warning of Hurricane Ida win…
“We wake up at 4 a.m. (Sunday), and we see a potential Category 5 hurricane, and this track shift is putting us right in the eye wall,” St. Charles Parish President Richard Jewell said. “It’s really as bad as it gets right now.”
The Houma area was expected to be hit hard by surge. While parishes and the state have spent $500 million on the first phase of the 92-mile-long Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane levee system, most of the built segments are 12 feet above ground level or less, as little federal money was made available to raise it to 100-year standards.
Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove on Saturday issued a mandatory evacuation for all residents, and directed them to public shelters in Monroe.
As a drizzling rain began to fall about 5:30 a.m. in LaPlace, Birdie’s Food & Fuel on Airline Drive was one of the few businesses still open. Channing Redd, 35, pulled his pickup truck up to a fuel pump, getting set to ride out the storm at his River Forest home.
His wife and 8-day-old namesake evacuated to Alabama while Redd filled and placed 380 sandbags around his home, with two pit bulls and a Dachsund for company.
“I’ve been sandbagging for two days,” Redd said. “Hopefully, everyone makes it out alright.”
Inside the store, Sylvia Leavey, 56, had just completed an overnight shift disinfecting rooms at Ochsner Health Center in LaPlace, and was breaking for drinks and other last-minute provisions before heading back to the hospital to ride out the storm.
Hurricane Ida began lashing the Louisiana coast early Sunday and forecasters expect it to make landfall later today as a catastrophic Category…
Ida’s approach brought back unwelcome memories of Hurricane Katrina, but Leavey insisted she wasn’t worried.
“The Lord’s got me,” she said.
Hospitals in Ida’s path went “code gray” Sunday morning — triggering lockdowns, with staff remaining overnight until roads are clear enough for relief teams to arrive.
“We’re not concerned about power; we’re concerned about taking on water,” said Angela Lambert, a spokesperson for Our Lady of the Angels Hospital in Bogalusa. “And our employees, because many do live in low-lying areas.”
Hospitals are handling the incoming threat of the storm while also dealing with a high load of coronavirus patients, many of whom need critical, round-the-clock care. “Our ICU is still full,” said Lambert. “We still have a full house.”
Jefferson Parish was desolate early Sunday, its residents either evacuated or cloistered in their homes, mostly.
Cherie Eues sat on the front stoop of her half of a shotgun double on Huey P. Long Avenue in Gretna as the winds gusted and rain drizzled down.
Eues, 62, has lived in the house 10 years and said she was confident that the levees and pump stations could keep the water levels down. But even if those failed, she said, she knew people would be there to help.
“I’ve got extremely good neighbors,” she said.
State and parish officials, however, said pleas for emergency help could take days to be answered once the storm leaves.
Entergy Louisiana and Entergy New Orleans requested implementation of mutual assistance agreements with other public electric utilities, which will result in a storm team of about 16,000 workers responding after Ida’s threat leaves the area. Cleco, on the north shore, also had help at the ready.
As Hurricane Ida approaches the Louisiana coast with winds nearing Category 5 status, officials in St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parish…
“Based on historical restoration times, customers in the direct path of a storm as intense as Hurricane Ida could experience outages for more than three weeks,” Entergy officials said in a Saturday news release. “While 90% of customers will be restored sooner, customers in the hardest hit areas should plan for the possibility of experiencing extended power outages.”
In St. Tammany Parish, about two dozen people, including elderly residents and a family with children, were sheltering at an American Red Cross shelter set up at Creekside Junior High. Another building on campus was being used as a shelter for people who need electrical power to survive. It was staffed with nurses and run by the parish.
Jeanne Marino, director of grants for St. Tammany Parish and the shelter manager, said some people arrived an hour and a half before the shelter opened Saturday afternoon.
Major roadways across the parish were largely deserted. But there were a few signs of life: a line of cars at Butter Krisp diner in Covington spilled onto U.S. 190. A line of customers stretched out of the door.
Customers ordered donuts by the dozen as the TV played the latest Hurricane Ida developments and rain fell outside.
“Be safe, my darling,” the counter clerk said as a customer walked out into the rain.
Staff writers Michelle Hunter, Marie Fazio, Sara Pagones, Faimon Roberts and Emily Woodruff contributed to this story.