US southern states recovering from Ida face new flooding threat

US states still reeling from last week’s powerful Hurricane Ida face slow-moving rain and threat of flash floods.

New Orleans firefighters assess damages after a building collapsed from the effects of Hurricane Ida, August 30 [Eric Gay/AP Photo]
New Orleans firefighters assess damages after a building collapsed from the effects of Hurricane Ida, August 30 [Eric Gay/AP Photo]

Parts of the southern United States still grappling with widespread power outages and water-logged homes in the aftermath of deadly Hurricane Ida are facing the threat of more flash floods from slow-moving rain and drenching thunderstorms.

Storms capable of producing five to eight centimetres (two to three inches) of rain “in a pretty short period of time” were saturating New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana and Mississippi on Monday, and were expected to continue into the evening, National Weather Service meteorologist Lara Pagano said.

“Some of that [rain] will occur over soil that is saturated by Ida, areas that are already sensitive, with any additional heavy rain problematic and leading to flash flooding,” Pagano told the Reuters news agency.

The states are struggling to recover more than a week after Ida, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to strike the US Gulf Coast, tore a devastating path of destruction across the region and damaged the New Orleans power grid.

The storm killed at least 13 in Louisiana, and more than 500,000 customers in the state remained without power on Monday, according to the PowerOutage.us website, which tracks power outages.

The US Coast Guard on Monday said it was probing nearly 350 reports of oil spills in and along the Gulf Coast in Ida’s wake.

President Joe Biden has approved disaster declarations for Louisiana, which he visited on Friday, as well as for New York and New Jersey, where he will travel on Tuesday.

The declarations allow the states to access federal assistance for repairs and rebuilding after the intense flooding.

“Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster,” the White House said in a statement.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Ida caused more than $50m in damage in that state after the storm’s record-breaking rainfall of 7.8cm (3.1 inches) per hour on Wednesday.

Hochul said she had directed that $378m in previously awarded hazard mitigation funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) be devoted to supporting New York’s infrastructure against extreme weather.

Biden will travel to Manville, New Jersey, and the Queens borough of New York City on Tuesday to assess damage from the hurricane.

New York had 17 confirmed deaths from Ida – four in suburban Westchester County and the rest in New York City. In New Jersey, there were at least 27 confirmed storm deaths and four people missing, a governor’s spokesperson said.

In the southern US, shortages of workers and supplies that predate the hurricane will likely slow down reconstruction efforts after Ida, The Associated Press news agency reported.

Construction companies have been particularly affected. In a survey by real estate research firm Zonda last month, 93 percent of building executives complained of supply shortages while 74 percent said they lacked enough workers.

“Natural disasters do cause a strain on building materials, reconstruction materials and on labour,”  Ali Wolf, chief economist at Zonda, told the AP.

“The difference today is that the entire supply chain has been battered even before Ida’s occurrence. You really have all these things hitting at the exact same time. Frankly, the last thing the supply chain needed was extra strain.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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