/ 31 August 2021

Ida leaves New Orleans in the dark


One of the biggest storms to hit Louisiana in America’s deep south in the last 150 years has left hundreds of people stranded in floodwaters. Two people are confirmed dead, and with residents living in the maze of rivers and bayous along the state’s Gulf Coast, many have been cut off. State Governor John Bel Edwards says he “fully expects the death count will go up considerably throughout the day.”

That’s yet to be assessed across the state’s southeast, where Hurricane Ida’s full force was felt. There is flooding and trees down over roads making it hard for assessment teams and rescuers to get around. What is known is the 240km/hour winds have knocked out all 8 transmission lines that deliver power to New Orleans, and officials say it could take days/weeks to restore electricity to 1 million homes. The good news is that it looks like the system of levees, barriers and pumps that were built/installed after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 have done their job. But Ida isn’t done yet – it’s now a slow-moving tropical storm over western Mississippi, and officials say there are threats of more flooding.

But not as big as Hurricane Katrina. Ida’s wind speed was greater when it made landfall yesterday: 240km/hour compared to Katrina’s 200km/hour. But Katrina’s wind field was significantly larger: 145km from the storm’s centre compared to 80km for Ida. Still, Ida was big enough to reverse the flow of the Mississippi River near New Orleans… As the storm approached the coast, water was pushed back into the river causing its level to rise by a couple of metres. “During that time, the flow of the river slowed from about 2 feet per second down to about half a foot per second in the other direction,” an official from the US Geological Survey said. That’s “extremely uncommon”, they say. A gallery of pictures of Ida’s destruction is here.

Image source: AP

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