Hurricane Ida traps Louisianans, shatters the power grid
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Rescuers set out in hundreds of boats and helicopters to reach people trapped by floodwaters Monday, and utility repair crews rushed in, after a furious Hurricane Ida swamped the Louisiana coast and ravaged the electrical grid in the stifling, late-summer heat.
Residents living amid the maze of rivers and bayous along the state’s Gulf Coast retreated desperately to their attics or roofs and posted their addresses on social media with instructions for search-and-rescue teams on where to find them.
More than 1 million customers in Louisiana and Mississippi — including all of New Orleans — were left without power as Ida, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the U.S. mainland, pushed through on Sunday and early Monday before weakening into a tropical storm.
The damage was so extensive that officials warned it could be weeks before the power grid was repaired.
As the storm continued to make its way inland with torrential rain and shrieking winds, it was blamed for at least two deaths — a motorist who drowned in New Orleans, and a person hit by a falling tree outside Baton Rouge.
But with many roads impassable and cellphone service knocked out in places, the full extent of its fury was still coming into focus. Christina Stephens, a spokesperson for Gov. John Bel Edwards, said that given the level of destruction, “We’re going to have many more confirmed fatalities.”
The governor’s office said damage to the power grid appeared “catastrophic” — dispiriting news for those left without refrigeration or air conditioning during the dog days of summer, with highs forecast in the mid-80s to close to 90 by midweek.
In hard-hit LaPlace, squeezed between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, rescuers saved people from flooded homes in a near-constant operation.
Debbie Greco, her husband and her son rode out the storm in LaPlace with Greco’s parents. Water reached the first-floor windows, then knocked down the back door and filled the brick home with 4 feet of water. They retreated to the second floor, but then screaming winds collapsed the roof.
They were finally rescued by boat after waiting in the only dry spot, five people sharing the landing on the stairs.
“When I rebuild this I’m out of here. I’m done with Louisiana,” said Greco’s father, 85-year-old Fred Carmouche, a lifelong resident.
Elsewhere in LaPlace, people pulled pieces of chimneys, gutters and other parts of their homes to the curb and residents of a mobile home park waded through floodwaters.l
The hurricane blew ashore on the 16th anniversary of Katrina, the 2005 storm that breached New Orleans’ levees, devastated the city and was blamed for 1,800 deaths.
This time, New Orleans appeared to escape the catastrophic flooding city officials had feared.