Hurricane Ida slammed into the Southeast Louisiana coast as a major Category 4 hurricane on August 29, causing catastrophic damage sixteen years to the day that Hurricane Katrina brought devastation to the area. President Biden declared a major disaster covering the entire southeastern region of Louisiana, activating FEMA assistance for impacted households. Now a tropical storm, Ida is continuing to move northward over Mississippi.
Ida’s landfall followed a chaotic period of preparation and evacuation as those seeking to leave the region snarled traffic and those unable to leave hunkered down for what could be the most severe hurricane to hit the region in decades. Emergency Management personnel reported widespread structural damage as far north as Baton Rouge. The city of New Orleans – which was inundated by stormwaters from Hurricane Katrina – appeared to fare well during the storm thanks to an advanced flood control system constructed after the famous storm. Other areas did not appear as lucky. For example, levees in LaPlace Parish were overtopped, causing families to report via social media that they climbed on rooftops to escape rapidly rising water. Levees also failed in Plaquemines Parish causing officials to order evacuations early this morning. Virtually all of New Orleans and much of the surrounding suburbs are currently expected to remain without power for days, or even weeks. Coastal areas such as Terrebonne and Jefferson Parish experienced 100 mph winds for several hours on Sunday.
New Orleans officials stated that the storm threat emerged too quickly for them to implement measures necessary for a mandatory evacuation and called for residents to shelter-in-place as the storm passed. Teams from homeless service organizations were out on the street bringing individuals experiencing homelessness into shelters. The city had activated an overflow shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness prior to the storm. Still, news coverage showed numerous individuals experiencing homelessness riding out the storm on the street. Individuals with disabilities were frustrated by the early closure of the region’s accessibility transit services and a lack of accessible vehicles because FEMA activated emergency government contracts, taking control of many much needed accessible vans.
One reason for the lack of rapid weakening that typically follows a hurricane’s landfall is the degradation of Louisiana’s tidal areas, which typically act as a sponge for storm waves and prevent access to the warm waters needed by hurricanes. The lack of tidal areas meant the hurricane had access to warmer water for longer, increasing the storm’s impact further inland.
NLIHC’s Disaster Housing Recovery Working Group (DHRC) – a group of over 850 local, state, and national organizations working to ensure that all disaster survivors receive the assistance they need to fully recover – will continue to monitor and push for needed reforms to our disaster recovery system as the region recovers.
To find more about disaster recovery and housing join the Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition’s Tuesday Working Group Meetings: https://bit.ly/34Efwsa