Ida Puts Post-Katrina New Orleans to the Test; NHC Warns Potentially Deadly Storm Surge Is Not Over

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Michelle Washington and her son Kendrick check out damage to their home in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida on August 30, 2021 in Kenner, Louisiana. (Image: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Hurricane Ida at present is not the fatal storm that some may have feared, but is still a force to be reckoned with, putting post-Katrina New Orleans to the test. The National Hurricane Center warns that the potentially fatal storm surge is not over and will remain a threat through the night of Aug. 30-31.  

It was reported by CNN that hospitals, already stretched by COVID patients, according to New Orleans’ health director Dr. Jennifer Avegno, chose not to evacuate and are maintaining operations on emergency power. 

On Sunday, Aug. 29, Hurricane Ida presented a full-force landfall as a category four storm, hitting on the 16th anniversary of Katrina’s devastation and bringing 150 mile-per-hour winds.

Unlike Katrina, which hit New Orleans with 175 mph winds and brought the fourth highest recorded death toll of any U.S. storm — claiming 1833 lives in part due to levee failures — Ida has so far proved to be more of an infrastructure challenge than a fatal catastrophe, putting post-Katrina fortifications to the test. 

A million in Louisiana have been left without power as the grid suffered catastrophic transmission failure.  At least one person died in the storm when a tree fell on a house, according to the sheriff of Ascension Parrish. 

As of 10 p.m. on Sunday evening, Ida had downgraded to category two and began to move at the feared “snail’s pace” hovering over land and dumping huge amounts of precipitation. Together with a storm surge that reversed the flow of the Mississippi River, flash flood threats accompanied the massive rainfall. The storm now spins at category one strength, the momentum reduced by the forces at play after landfall. 

In the build up to the storm, just over ninety-five percent of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico was put on hold to protect the oil industry resources. This amounts to 15 percent to 17 percent of overall US crude oil production, depending on the source referenced.

The governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, had warned Gulf Coast residents to find a safe place to ride out the storm. Although the storm intensified so quickly that she says she did not have time to order city-wide mandatory evacuations, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell warned residents and their guests on Saturday to leave the area immediately or shelter in place. 

Mandatory evacuation was issued for a limited region outside the levee system. New Orleans has not yet recovered from a double hit in the 2020 hurricane season and many areas and structures that were damaged at that time have not been re-inhabited. While seen as a sign of slow recovery, this may have brought the unintended effect of keeping residents out of dangerous locations. 

The National Hurricane Center has warned that Ida will continue to bring a life-threatening storm surge overnight Monday into Tuesday. Aug. 31.