In Jean Lafitte, south of New Orleans, levees were overtopped and residents were on their roofs, waiting for rescue boats to arrive, Mayor Tim Kerner Jr. said.
“We’re going to make sure we get as many boats as possible,” to assist with rescues he said, adding that boats were ready to move in as soon as the weather broke. “It really breaks your heart when you know those people and you can’t get to those people.”
After making landfall Sunday, Ida has now slowed to a near crawl over Louisiana as a Category 1 storm, causing flash flood emergencies as it dumps inches of rain on the southeastern part of the state.
Making landfall on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Ida is already historic in its own right. The storm is now tied with Hurricane Laura from last year and the Last Island Hurricane of 1856 as the state’s strongest storm ever.
As of Monday morning, more than a million customers in Louisiana were without power, according to PowerOutage.US. Among them is all of Orleans Parish, which was hit with “catastrophic transmission damage,” the city office says in a Tweet Sunday night.
As Ida continues to bear down on the coast, Entergy Louisiana said Sunday some of its customers could be without power for weeks. And the storm surge of up to 15 feet and winds as strong as 150 mph could leave parts of southeast Louisiana “uninhabitable for weeks or months,” according to a local hurricane statement from the National Weather Service in New Orleans.
While the scope of the damage won’t be clear until day breaks and teams can assess the chaos — initial reports indicate the situation for many residents who stayed behind is dire.
Jefferson Parish has received calls from people asking for help as water rose to their chest in their homes, Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng told CNN Sunday night. But with high winds, flooding and reports of hazards, including downed powerlines and uprooted trees, Sheng said the dangerous conditions have prevented emergency crews from helping.
And Ida has plenty of strength left. The hurricane is turning northward over southeastern Louisiana, with sustained winds of 95 mph. The storm is weakening very slowly, and will likely continue to pelt the southeastern coast and lower Mississippi Valley with heavy rainfall throughout the early morning hours, according to CNN meteorologist Michael Guy. The region could get 10 to 24 inches of rainfall, which may bring life threatening flash and urban flooding.
Tornadoes will continue to be a threat for the Gulf Coast through Monday, with the threat expanding into central and northern Mississippi and Alabama.
The storm is expected to turn northeast Monday and head to the middle Tennessee Valley and Upper Ohio Valley through Wednesday. Until then, Louisiana will bear the brunt of the rain, flooding and wind.
“I haven’t seen relentless wind [like this] in my lifetime,” St. Bernard Parish president Guy McInnis told CNN.
Roadways closed and hospitals damaged
The storm has also impacted access for rescuers to get in and residents to get out.
The Kerner Swing Bridge in Jefferson Parish was hit by a barge Sunday as Ida beat down on Louisiana, according to the parish government, prompting officials to warn residents it may not be safe to drive across.
“Any residents that may still be in Lafitte are advised to not attempt to drive on this bridge. We do not believe it is structurally safe,” Jefferson Parish tweeted.
And due to fallen trees on the roadway, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development shut down about 22 miles of Interstate 10, a major thoroughfare that transits the state east to west.
The closed portion of roadway stretches from Louisiana Highway 73 — near Dutch Town, Louisiana — to Louisiana Highway 641 — near Gramercy, Louisiana.
In Lafourche Parish, every road was impassible Sunday night, Sheriff Craig Webre told CNN.
There is a curfew in place for Lafourche Parish, “and we’re going to set up checkpoints to aggressively enforce that curfew,” the sheriff said.
Officials plan to canvass the parish with every available county employee in the morning, but with the lack of electricity, downed power lines, and scattered debris, Webre doesn’t anticipate any opportunities to clear roadways Sunday night that would allow any travel prior to daybreak.
Two of the three hospitals in Lafourche Parish sustained damage in Sunday’s epic storm, the sheriff added.
A portion of the roof of The Lady of the Sea General Hospital in Galliano was ripped off as Ida came ashore, Webre told CNN’s Pamela Brown. The county was also forced to relocate its emergency operations center to a different building after the first building’s roof began to leak Sunday, Webre told CNN.
Governor asks for assistance with ‘one of the strongest storms to ever hit Louisiana’
Once the storm does calm, there are 21 urban search and rescue teams from about 15 states ready to search, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards told CNN Sunday.
“At the height of a hurricane you can’t get first responders out because it’s just simply too dangerous. The wind speeds don’t allow for that,” he explained. “Just as soon as we can, we will be engaged in very robust search and rescue operations.”
Edwards said he anticipated the storm would continue to cause damage throughout the night, noting that it hadn’t reach I-10 yet and the expected wind and rain, which could be 20 to 24 inches in some areas, is likely to cause further damage in the state.
“It’s tough all over southeast Louisiana,” he said, adding “This is a very devastating storm.”
Sunday night, President Joe Biden granted Edwards’ request for a major disaster declaration, ordering federal agencies to supplement state and local recovery efforts.
Edwards requested federal public assistance related to emergency protection actions, shelters and temporary housing costs, his office said.
Also included was a request for federal assistance for debris removal and infrastructure damage, according to the news release.
“Hurricane Ida is one of the strongest storms to ever hit Louisiana,” Edwards said in a press release Sunday, noting the urgency of the declaration.