Louisiana braces for ‘life-altering’ Hurricane Ida

by Jeremy

Residents across Louisiana’s coast are taking one last day to prepare for what is being described as a “life-altering” Hurricane Ida.

NEW ORLEANS — Residents across Louisiana’s coast Saturday took one last day to prepare for what is described as a “life-altering” Hurricane Ida, which is expected to bring winds as high as 140 mph (225 kph) when it slams ashore.Louisiana braces for 'life-altering' Hurricane Ida

A combination of voluntary and mandatory evacuations has been called for cities and communities across the region, including New Orleans. The mayor ordered a mandatory evacuation for areas outside the city’s levee system and a voluntary evacuation for residents inside the levee system. But since the storm quickly escalated in intensity, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said it wasn’t possible to order a mandatory evacuation for the entire city, which would require using all lanes of some highways to leave the city.

“This will be a life-altering storm for those who aren’t prepared,” National Weather Service meteorologist Benjamin Schott said during a Friday news conference with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.

In New Orleans, city officials said residents must be prepared for prolonged power outages and asked elderly residents to consider evacuating. Collin Arnold, the city’s emergency management director, said the city could be under high winds for about ten hours. Earlier Friday, Cantrell called for a mandatory evacuation for residents outside the city’s levee protections — a relatively tiny sliver of the city’s population.

With the storm’s forward speed slowing down and the intensity picking up, the storm surge may overtop some levees that protect parts of New Orleans on the west bank of the Mississippi River, said Heath Jones, emergency manager of the Army Corps of Engineers,” New Orleans District. He said there does not appear to be any danger of storm surge over the levees that protect thecity’ss east bank, which makes up most of the city. However, he said they’re designed to be overtopped and have protections to prevent more damage.

Across the region, residents were filling sandbags, getting gas for cars and generators, and stocking up on food. Capt. Ross Eichorn, a fishing guide on the coast about 70 miles (112 kilometers) southwest of New Orleans, said he fears warm Gulf waters will ” “make a monster” out a monster”  ”  “With a direct hit, ain’t ain’tlingwhat’ss going to be left — if anything” Eichorn said. He added:  ” Anybody that hat isn’tncerned has got something wrong with them.”

A hurricane warning was issued for most of the Louisiana coast from Intracoastal City to the mouth of the Pearl River. A tropical storm warning was extended to the Mississippi-Alabama line.

At the same time, hospitals are preparing for the storm; they are still dealing with a fourth surge of the coronavirus. Officials decided against evacuating New Orleans hospitals. There’ss little room for their patients elsewhere, with hospitals from Texas to Florida already packed with patients, said Dr. Jennifer Avengo, thecity’ss health director.

At the state’s largest hospital system, Ochsner Health System, officials ordered ten days worth of fuel, food, drugs, and other supplies and have backup fuel contracts for its generators. One positive was that COVID-19 patients had dropped from 988 to 836 over the past week — a 15% decline.

President Joe Biden approved a federal emergency declaration for Louisiana before the storm. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said FEMA plans to send nearly 150 medical personnel and almost 50 ambulances to the Gulf Coast to assist strained hospitals.

Ida made its first landfall Friday afternoon onCuba’ss the southern Isle of Youth. The Cuban government issued a hurricane warning for its westernmost provinces, where forecasters said as much as 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain could fall in places, possibly unleashing deadly flash floods and mudslides. Landfall in the U.S. is expected late Sunday in the Mississippi River delta region.

If that forecast holds, Ida will hit 16 years to the day that Hurricane Katrina made landfall with 125 mph (201 kph) winds near the riverside community of Buras.

Katrina is blamed for an estimated 1,800 deaths from the central Louisiana coast to around the Mississippi-Alabama state line. A massive storm surge scoured the shores and wiped houses off the map. In New Orleans, failures of federal levees led to catastrophic flooding. Water covered 80% of the city, and many homes were swamped to the rooftops. Some victims drowned in their attics. The Superdome and New Orleans Convention Center became sweltering as tens of thousands were stranded without power or running water.

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