Hurricane Ida weakens to a tropical depression

New Orleans plunged into darkness hours after the storm slammed the southern US state of Louisiana, killing at least one person.

Resident looking at the remains of his collapsed home after Hurricane Ida struck New Orleans, Louisiana on August 30, 2021 [Michael DeMocker/USA TODAY Network via Reuters]

Hurricane Ida has battered the southern US state of Louisiana and plunged New Orleans into darkness, killing at least one person.

Ida slammed into the Louisiana coast as a Category 4 hurricane but weakened into a tropical storm on Monday.

President Joe Biden described Ida as “life-threatening” and declared Louisiana a disaster area.The hurricane was compared with Katrina, which devastated Louisiana exactly 16 years ago to the day.

The storm is expected to continue weakening as it moves over land with a predicted track taking it north into the central United States before veering eastward, reaching the mid-Atlantic region by Wednesday.

Here are the latest updates:

Louisiana hospitals evacuate dozens of patients

Louisiana hospitals in the path of Hurricane Ida were forced to evacuate dozens of patients after the storm left them with pieces torn off their roofs and water leaking down walls to pool on floors as they relied on emergency generators for electricity.

Hospitals that suffered the worst damage worked on Monday to transfer patients to other medical centres in the state, while others kept operating on generator power.

Ochsner Health, which runs Louisiana’s largest hospital network and had about 15 hospitals in Ida’s path, evacuated 165 patients on Monday. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said four Louisiana hospitals suffered damage from Ida, and 39 medical facilities were running on generator power.

Members of a rescue team helping evacuate people after Hurricane Ida made landfall in Laplace, Louisiana, US [Marco Bello/Reuters]

Biden holds virtual meeting with mayors and governors

US President Joe Biden held a virtual meeting with governors and mayors of cities and states impacted by the storm on Monday, highlighting the federal government’s efforts in responding to the Hurricane.

“We know Hurricane Ida had the potential to cause massive, massive damage,” Biden said during remarks, “and that’s exactly what we saw.”

He said more than 5,000 members of the National Guard from several states have been dispatched to support search and rescue efforts, adding that the number of confirmed deaths is likely to grow in the coming days.

US declares public health emergency in two states

US health officials Monday declared public health emergencies for Louisiana and Mississippi, seeking to suspend government red tape that may get in the way of providing help to people affected by Hurricane Ida.

The emergency declaration by Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra puts a pause on certain payment rules and other requirements that could become an unwelcome distraction for hospitals and doctors trying to provide services under stressful conditions.

HHS has also staged an incident management team in Dallas to coordinate federal health and medical support after Ida passes through the region. Another team is providing support for people needing kidney dialysis.

More than 2000 evacuated to shelters, others retreat to attics and rooftops

Four Louisiana hospitals were damaged and 39 medical facilities were operating on generator power, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said.

The state’s governor’s office said more than 2,200 evacuees were staying in 41 shelters on Monday, a number expected to rise as people were rescued or escaped from flooded homes.

The Louisiana National Guard said it activated 4,900 Guard personnel and lined up 195 high-water vehicles, 73 rescue boats and 34 helicopters. Local and state agencies were adding hundreds more.

Theophilus Charles, 70, sitting inside his house which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Ida in Houma, Louisiana, US [Adrees Latif/Reuters]

Significant power outage in two states

More than a million customers in Louisiana and Mississippi were without power, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks outages nationwide, increasing their vulnerability to flooding and leaving them without air conditioning and refrigeration.

Energy company Entergy said all eight crucial transmission lines into New Orleans were down and the only power was coming from generators, the city’s emergency office tweeted, citing “catastrophic transmission damage.” The city relies on Entergy for backup power for its stormwater pumps.

In Jefferson Parish in suburban New Orleans, the hurricane twisted a main power transmission tower along the Mississippi River, causing widespread outages and halting river traffic, Emergency Management Director Joe Valiente told radio network NPR.

Economists foresee only modest damage to US economy after Ida

While Ida is sure to take a toll on the energy, chemical and shipping industries that have important hubs along the Gulf Coast, the effect on the overall US economy should be modest, economists have suggested.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said the disruptions caused by Ida will likely lead him to downgrade his forecast for annual US economic growth in the July-September quarter by a few 10ths of a percentage point. But that economic loss could be reversed in the final quarter of the year as a result of the rebuilding from the hurricane’s damage that will likely follow.

“The key channel for Ida to impact the broader economy is through energy prices,” Zandi said. “We will have to see how much damage occurred to production in the Gulf and how long that production will stay offline.”

Louisiana governor tells people to stay put

John Bel Edwards, governor of Louisiana, ordered people to stay home to avoid the dangerous situation in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

‘Total devastation’: Mayor describes hurricane aftermath

The National Weather Service issued warnings of storm surges and flash floods for several areas, including the town of Jean Lafitte, just south of New Orleans, where Mayor Tim Kerner said the rapidly rising waters had overtopped the 2.3-metre (7.5 feet) levees.

“Total devastation, catastrophic, our town levees have been overtopped,” Kerner told ABC-affiliate WGNO. “We have anywhere between 75 to 200 people stranded” after a barge took out the swing bridge to the island.

“The winds are still too strong, we can’t put boats in the water to get to them. This is a very dangerous situation. I’ve never seen so much water in my life,” said Kerner.

Rescues begin and damage checked in Louisiana

Across southeast Louisiana, residents waited for daylight to be rescued from floodwaters and see how much damage was caused by Ida.

Levees failed or were overtopped in the maze of rivers and bayous south of New Orleans, threatening hundreds of homes. On social media, people posted their addresses and locations – directing search and rescue teams to their attics or rooftops.

Officials promised to start the enormous rescue effort as the weather broke and the sun rose.

New Orleans blacked out as Ida floods Louisiana, Mississippi

Hurricane Ida’s top winds slowed over Mississippi, 16 hours after blowing ashore in Louisiana as one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to strike the US mainland.

“We have now lost power, citywide! This is the time to continue to remain in your safe places. It isn’t a time to venture out,” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said on Twitter.

Torrential rain kept falling as the storm slowly moved north, with up to 600mm (2 feet) expected in places, as reports of flooded roads and homes multiplied.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies