Now a ferocious tropical storm churning northwards through the Deep South, Hurricane Ida made landfall yesterday, August 29, near Port Fourchon in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph. Shearing roofs off of buildings, deluging entire towns, reversing the flow of the Mississippi River, and leaving over a million Louisiana residents, including the entirety of New Orleans, without power, the timing of Ida couldn’t be more wretched as it made landfall on the same exact day as Hurricane Katrina did 16 years ago.
Ida is the ninth named storm, fourth hurricane and second major hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, and the second most powerful storm to hit Louisiana after Katrina.
Ida’s impact on New Orleans doesn’t appear, thus far, to meet the same level of sheer devastation as Katrina thanks in large part to the $14.5 billion levee system that was constructed in the wake of that storm and has prevented the historic city from going underwater again. “If there’s a silver lining, and today it’s kind of hard to see that, it is that our levee systems really did perform extremely well,” the New York Times reported Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards as saying during news conference. Although New Orleans’ flood-protection system stood strong, the brute force of Ida has had an impact that will last for days, weeks, and likely months to come across Louisiana and beyond. Outside of New Orleans, much of the devastation is just now coming to light as the historic begin to subside and the floodwaters gradually recede.
In Louisiana, the loss of power is a major ongoing story as a crucial transmission tower operated by utility Entergy collapsed into the Mississippi during the height of the storm, taking down with it eight transmission lines and effectively severing electricity from Orleans Parish and the east bank of Jefferson Parish for an indefinite amount of time. That particular tower, as pointed out by Entergy, withstood the wrath of Katrina but was no match for Ida.
The latest update from Entergy states: “We are currently working to assess damage and identify a path forward to restore power, to those who can take it, in the area,” noting that it has provided back-up generation to the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board. Getting power restored at generator-dependent hospitals in New Orleans and further afield remains a priority. Louisiana’s hospitals are already at near-capacity due to a surge in COVID-19 infections running rampant throughout the state.
In addition to the over 1 million Louisiana households in the dark, over 120,000 residents in Mississippi are currently without power per the latest numbers from PowerOutage.US.
While the impact of Ida on buildings in New Orleans and beyond is, as mentioned, still slowly coming to light, early reports out of the city paint a devastating picture. At least one historic site, a former tailor shop-turned-jazz record emporium once operated by the Karnofsky family at 427 S. Rampart Street, has been reduced to a “pile of bricks” by Ida as reported by local news outlet WWL-TV. The National Register of Historic Places-listed two-story building is famed for its associations with Louis Armstrong, who worked at the Karnosky Shop as a young boy and was encouraged by its owners, a family of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania, to pursue his musical passions. Along with the long-abandoned building itself, Ida also took down an adjacent large-scale mural of the city’s jazz legends by New Orleans-based visual artist Brandan “BMike” Odums.
President Joe Biden has issued a disaster declaration for Louisiana, making available federal aid to supplement State, tribal, and local recovery efforts.
At the time of writing, Ida has resulted in at least one death.
AN will continue to update this story and report back on Ida’s impact on the built environment of the Big Easy and beyond as more information becomes available.