Ida Leaves 2 Million Without Power, Louisiana Governor Fears Death Toll Could Rise ‘A Lot More’

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People react as a sudden rain shower soaks them with water while riding out of a flooded neighborhood in a volunteer high water truck assisting people evacuating from homes after neighborhoods flooded in LaPlace, Louisiana on August 30, 2021 in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. (Image: PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

First responders worked urgently before sunrise Monday, Aug. 30, to rescue drivers trapped in cars during the storm surge. NBC’s Today Show shared that in LaPlace alone, in St. John the Baptist Parish, at least 1,000 people had called for assistance asking to be rescued from their cars. The  Mayor of New Orleans had asked for locals to shelter in place Sunday night. The second death reported from the storm was a driver who drowned in their car.

Governor John Bel Edwards told NBC that beginning at 3 a.m. Monday in southeast Louisiana “we dispatched hundreds and hundreds of urban search and rescue personnel…Right now we have the entire National Guard…mobilized and we have thirty-four aircraft” and “About a hundred of these high-water vehicles.”

The governor said the ongoing search and rescue was “the first-order priority,” and added that “Second-order priority is making sure that our hospitals can continue to function” despite electricity and water issues. 

Katrina-level damage prevented for now

Edwards credited the Army’s reinforced levee system with preventing Katrina-level damage but said Ida remained “catastrophic” and “packed a very powerful punch” with “the surge that was forecasted, the wind that was forecasted, and the rain.” He said “we’re going to be recovering from it for many months.”  

The governor was concerned that the death count would rise “considerably” higher beyond the single lost life. Edwards told NBC, “I don’t want to tell you what I’m hearing because what I’m hearing points to a lot more than that…I will leave it here: I’m certain that as the day goes on we will have more deaths.” 

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Edwards mentioned unassessed catastrophes, including a partial apartment collapse during the height of the storm. Texas station KHOU11 reported as of 6:23 p.m. Monday, the death toll had risen to two, due to a drowning in a vehicle.

Edwards said that one positive was that unlike during Katrina’s onslaught 16 years ago, “the levee system really worked..it didn’t overtop and there was no failure.” He said that without this storm water reduction system “the situation in New Orleans — as bad as it is today without the power — would be so much worse.”

Local news writer Mark Schleifstein pointed out that there was more to the success of the levees than officials were widely mentioning: the storm itself, which was powerful enough to overwhelm the protection system, lost the height of its ferociousness before reaching the northern protection barriers.