A million households without power as governor says system of levees overhauled after Hurricane Katrina will face ‘most severe test’
One million people in Louisiana without power
One person has died as Hurricane Ida, one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the US, knocked out power to all of New Orleans, reversed the flow of the Mississippi River and blew roofs off buildings across Louisiana.
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The power outage in New Orleans heightened the city’s vulnerability to flooding and left hundreds of thousands of people without air conditioning and refrigeration in sweltering summer heat.
Storm trackers said that even after several hours, the hurricane remained as strong as when it made landfall, though by early Monday morning it was downgraded, first to Category 1, then to a tropical storm.
Ida — a Category 4 storm — hit on the same date Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi 16 years earlier, coming ashore about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of where Category 3 Katrina first struck land. Ida’s 150-mph (230 kph) winds tied it for the fifth-strongest hurricane to ever hit the mainland U.S. It dropped hours later to a Category 1 storm with maximum winds of 95 mph (155 kph) as it crawled inland, its eye about 45 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of New Orleans.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said there were roughly 1,500 people in 23 shelters, and those numbers were expected to increase as people discovered that their homes were no longer habitable. He advised residents to abide by curfews set by parishes and to stay off roads. He said this would be one of the strongest storms the state has experienced since at least the 1850s.
“There is no doubt that the coming days and weeks are going to be extremely difficult for our state,” Gov. Edwards said at an afternoon press conference. “Many people are going to be tested in ways that we can only imagine today.”
Still, even damage less severe than a full breach could have devastating effects, said Andy Horowitz, an associate professor of history at Tulane University in New Orleans and author of “Katrina: A History, 1915-2015.”
“Many people may die from flooding and drown in their homes if the system is overtopped even if the walls don’t fall down,” he said.
Zach Harrison, 25 years old, a Tulane School of Social Work student, said he decided to shelter in place with two friends in Mid-City but now regretted the decision. They cooked 5 pounds of shrimp and listened to Van Morrison until the power went out Sunday afternoon.
“I’m worried about the wind blowing the roof off. I’m also worried about extreme flooding,” Mr. Harrison said. “I stayed because of indecisiveness. By the time you realize it’s really, really bad, it’s Sunday already.”