Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

TROPICAL STORM IDA HITS LOUISIANA AS ONE OF THE STRONGEST STORMS IN OVER A CENTURY, REVERSING COURSE OF MISSISSIPPI RIVER AND CAUSING MASS FLOODS

MONDAY, AUGUST 30, 2021 AS OF 10:00 AM EST

Tropical Storm Ida is currently over southwestern Mississippi; 50 miles north-northwest of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and moving north at 8 miles per hour (mph), according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Hurricane Center (NHC). The classification for Ida has changed from a hurricane to a tropical storm, with hurricane warnings replaced with a tropical storm warning from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to the Mouth of the Pearl River. Maximum sustained winds have decreased almost 60 mph to Ida’s current winds of 60 mph with higher gusts. Tropical storm force winds are reaching outwards of up to 150 miles. Ida’s current northern trajectory is expected to continue today, with a faster northeastward motion forecast to start Monday evening and continue into Tuesday. Ida is expected to downgrade to a tropical depression by Monday evening.

Tropical Storm Ida – GeoColor: NOAA

The NHC cautioned the combination of storm surge and high tide will cause typically dry areas close to the coast to flood, with water potentially reaching heights of 4 to 7 feet from Pointe a la Hache, Louisiana, to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Overtopping local levees outside of the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System is a potential risk. Wind damage is likely close to the core of the storm as it heads further inland over southwestern Mississippi over the next several hours, while tropical storm conditions are expected to move inland over parts of Louisiana and Mississippi throughout Monday morning. Ida is expected to create additional rainfall totals of 4 to 8 inches, with a risk of localized higher amounts across parts of southeast Louisiana into far southern Mississippi. Accumulations of total storm rainfall of 10 to 18 inches, with remote maximum amounts of 24 inches, is anticipated. A number of tornadoes are a potential risk throughout Monday evening, mainly across southeast Mississippi, southwest Alabama, and the western Florida Panhandle, while surf swells will continue to impact the northern Gulf coast throughout Monday.

Twitter: Steve Caparotta

Ida made landfall near Port Fourchon, Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane on Sunday afternoon, the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Striking as a Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph winds, making it potentially one of the strongest hurricanes to hit Louisiana in over a century. Seven more mph would have brought Hurricane Ida up to a Category 5 hurricane. All of New Orleans remains without power leaving over one million people in the dark. 

In a news conference, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards told reporters it was “painful to think about another powerful storm like Hurricane Ida making landfall on that anniversary,” but stressed that “we’re not the same state we were 16 years ago.” The City of New Orleans underwent $14.5 billion worth of levee improvements, with Edwards telling CNN’s Jake Tapper the storm reduction systems will face their most severe test since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. 121,000 people in southwestern Mississippi also lost power due to effects from Hurricane Ida as its center moves through Mississippi. 

According to the power company, Entergy, which provides power to over three million customers throughout the south, eight downed transmission lines connected to a transmission tower that collapsed, which provides power to most of the city, is the primary reason for the power outages. Damage assessments will begin on Monday to gage how quickly power will be able to be restored. As of 5:25 a.m. CDT Monday, 911 operating systems were also down in Lafourche Parish. Flooding and life threatening storm surges are still a concern, as stay at home orders and parish wide curfews remain in effect.

Twitter: Jeff Lindner

The storm surge and strong winds from Ida were so strong on Sunday that the hurricane caused the Mississippi River to temporarily reverse course. The United States (US) Geological Survey reported the river level rose approximately seven feet on Sunday, slowing the river flow to about 2 feet per second to around half of a foot per second in the opposite direction as Ida pushed inland.

Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office officials reported that Ida caused at least one casualty in Prairieville, Louisiana on Sunday evening. ABC News reported the heavy rain and storm surge on Sunday evening caused one levee to fail. Infrastructure damage includes the collapse of the former Karnofsky Shop, a historic site in New Orleans where a Jewish immigrant family employed Louis Armstrong and loaned him the money for his first cornet, according to CBS affiliate 4-WWLTV. The full extent of damage is not yet known, with deputies in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, returning on patrol to attempt to “determine the accessibility of our roadways.”

Twitter:NWS New Orleans 

The National Weather Service (NWS) offers advice and guidance for those about to experience, currently impacted by, or previously affected by tropical storms and hurricanes. Individuals at risk are encouraged to secure their home, remain up-to-date with information from their local NWS office and local government/emergency management office, and follow guidance issued by local officials. As Ida continues to move across many US regions, states and communities should begin preparing for tropical storm-like weather and potential tornadoes. Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides guidance to individuals preparing for, experiencing, or affected by hurricanes. Additionally, FEMA encourages individuals to take the necessary precautions and prepare for flash flooding. Flash floods can develop with little to no warning, quickly changing the surrounding area. FEMA suggests individuals seek higher ground, avoid walking or driving in flood waters, and heed the warnings of local authorities. The Hagerty Blog Team will continue providing information and updates.

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