When Ida crashed into southeast Louisiana on Sunday, shoreline and inland communities were pummeled, some completely transformed and now unrecognizable.
The storm brought 150 mph winds and pushed several feet of ocean water onto shore. Some parishes experienced nearly nine feet of storm surge and up to a foot and half of rain, overpowering local levees. Neighborhoods were flooded, roads were washed out, buildings collapsed or were even swept off their foundations, roofs peeled off, piers and marinas were decimated, and vessels were dislodged. Lights flickered off as over 1 million customers lost power. At least six fatalities have been reported so far.
As the storm passed north, satellites and aircrafts captured the widespread damage by then-Category 4 Hurricane Ida.
Jean Lafitte is a small town of almost 2,000 people on the Bayou Barataria. Located just outside of New Orleans, the town was not protected by the metropolis’s or Jefferson Parish’s levee systems. Heavy rain and a strong storm surge overtopped Jean Lafitte’s 7.5-foot-high flood wall.
The mayor said more than 150 people were stranded in high water as the town was flooded. The National Weather Service issued a flash-flood warning and warned of potentially life-threatening flash flooding immediately after Ida. Floodwater from storms tends to collect in Jean Lafitte because of its location at or below sea level and typically needs to be pumped out.
Aircraft with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration captured images before and after Ida on Aug. 30. The photos, captured at 15-centimeter-by-15-centimeter resolution, are disseminated to federal, state and local government agencies, in addition to the public.
The information helps emergency managers to develop recovery strategies, assess damage, rebuild damaged properties and allow displaced residents to see images of their neighborhoods. During Hurricane Katrina, NOAA collected more than 8,000 images of the most affected areas.
Golden Meadow is five miles south of Ida’s second landfall site, Galliano, in the Lafourche Parish. As Ida hit the coast, a monitoring tower near the fishing town recorded sustained winds of 70 mph and a wind gust of 102 mph.
The storm dismantled blocks of houses and trailers; some say potentially 50% of the houses are unlivable. The powerful winds also wiped out some 30% of shrimping boats just as the shrimping season was about to begin, Reuters reported. The Coast Guard stated at least one vessel, tied to a tugboat, floated adrift from its moorings, according to The Times-Picayune.
Lafourche and its surrounding parishes were some of the areas hardest hit by Ida. Grand Isle, about a 40-minute drive south of Golden Meadow, is under three feet of sand with every structure damaged. The director of fire services said it would take three to five years for Grand Isle to completely recuperate.
Houma, about a 50-minute drive west of Golden Meadow, was one of the first cities to be directly hit by Ida. The storm’s eyewall thrashed the city, home to more than 30,000 people, and knocked out homes, utility lines and a power plant. Hospitals were damaged and lost power, causing numerous patients to be transferred to other health facilities.
Since Katrina, New Orleans repaired and strengthened its levee systems, which stood strong in the face of Ida. However, the storm still caused widespread power outages. More than a million people across the state are without electricity, including Greater New Orleans.
The power outages complicated rescue operations and a return to normal operations. Cellphone service is knocked out, for those that even have a charge left on their phones. Broken sewage pumping stations are unable to pull wastewater from the plumbing in thousands of homes. Food has spoiled without proper refrigeration.
The electrical company Entergy reported damage or complete destruction to more than 2,000 poles, 500 transformers, and almost 3,000 spans of wire across Louisiana and Mississippi. More than 1,800 miles of transmission lines are still out of service. Entergy said power could not be fully restored for weeks, although they were able to bring power to some in eastern New Orleans on Wednesday.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has delivered more than 200 generators, with more on the way.