Hurricane Ida Slams Louisiana Coast on the 16th Anniversary of Katrina

The Category 4 hurricane made landfall in southeastern Louisiana midday Sunday, causing extensive flooding and power outages

A satellite radar image of hurricane Ida approaching the coast of Louisiana
Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana's southeastern coast at 11:55 am eastern on Sunday. NOAA

Hurricane Ida made landfall on the coast of Louisiana around 12 p.m. Eastern time on August 29, leaving extensive flooding and a state-wide blackout in its wake. The hurricane, which slowed to a tropical storm overnight, is one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the United States, according to the Associated Press.

"I don't think there could have been a worse path for this storm. It's going to have some significant impacts. We're already seeing the power outages across the area and the threat isn't over," FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell tells CNN. "It remained a Category 4 for several hours over the southern parts of Louisiana. So they just got the impacts from the winds, from the significant and intense rainfall as well as that storm surge for several hours.”

Hurricane Ida’s 150-mile-per-hour gusts ripped roofs off of houses, reversed the flow of the Mississippi River, and broke barges free from their moorings. The hurricane toppled an electrical transmission tower, leading to widespread blackouts during sweltering summer heat. As Ida moved inland, it weakened to a tropical storm. Today, Ida is curving northeastward over Mississippi, pelting the state with wind and rain, and it is expected to pass through the Tennessee Valley on Tuesday.

Hurricane Ida made landfall exactly 16 years after Hurricane Katrina devastated southern Louisiana. Officials have attributed one death to Hurricane Ida, but that is number is likely to rise in the coming days, says Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards.

“I don’t want to mislead anyone. Robust search and rescue is happening right now and I fully expect that that death count will go up considerably throughout the day,” Edwards told MSNBC this morning.

Search crews set out by boat and helicopter early Monday morning to rescue some of the residents trapped by extensive flooding, report Amir Vera and Jay Croft for CNN. Over 900 search and rescue personnel plus the Louisiana National Guard are assisting with the effort, according Edwards, who encourages residents to shelter in place.

More than 1 million people were without power as of Monday, and according to local power company Entergy, outages could persist for several days. The company, which is responsible for powering the city’s pumps that remove stormwater from streets, reported “catastrophic transmission damage” as the reason for the blackout. Entergy wrote on Twitter that it “will likely take days to determine the extent of damage to our power grid and far longer to restore electrical transmission to the region.”

All eight major transmission lines that supply electricity into the greater New Orleans area have failed. Power outages are an additional concern for the state’s hospitals, which are already strained under pressure from the highly transmissible Covid-19 Delta variant.

As climate change creates the conditions for wetter and more intense hurricanes, storms like Ida may be more challenging to predict and prepare for, reports the Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer.