Exactly sixteen years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf coast, Louisiana’s residents are bracing for another catastrophe as Hurricane Ida nears landfall. The National Weather Service has issued dire warnings that parts of the state “may be uninhabitable for weeks or months”.
Overnight, Ida intensified beyond forecasters’ predictions. The storm grew into a strong category 4 with winds of 150mph. It will be the strongest storm ever to make landfall in Louisiana. Officials are urging residents who chose not to evacuate to now shelter in place.
During Katrina in 2005, much of the devastation came as levees and flood walls across the region failed. Despite the dire warnings from experts, many are expressing confidence that the state’s enhanced levee system will hold.
“This will be the most severe test of our system,” Louisiana Gov. John Bell Edwards said in reference to the levees around New Orleans. “We believe the integrity of that system will be able to withstand the surge.” Edwards did express concerns that levees along the southeast coast may be more susceptive to the nearly 16 foot storm surge predicted.
New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell echoed this sentiment in a video posted to social media Saturday night.
“The investments that have been made, billions of dollars – over $14 billion, in our levee protection system has this city and our people safer than we have ever been before. Period.”
Mayor Cantrell said “every model she has seen” shows areas of the city within the levee system will be safe.
“We will get through this”
In addition to facing down a monster hurricane, Louisiana is still struggling as an epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials report that hospitals across the state are full, making it nearly impossible to evacuate patients in Ida’s path.
In a CNN interview Sunday morning, Dr. Fauci said he was “very bothered” by the possibility of the virus spreading in shelters across the state.
Hospitals have requested additional support from surrounding states, but recognize that resources are already scarce. The national guard and emergency crews from across the nation are already mobilizing to respond.
“This is a battle tested area,” said Dr. Kavita Patel. Patel, who helped evacuate patients during Katrina, underscored how unprecedented this moment is.
“I can’t think of a place with better disaster preparedness,” she said speaking of Louisiana. “But even they haven’t been tested like this.”
While the state truly faces an unprecedented threat, its residents remain resilient.
In an Instagram post, New Orleans artist Big Freedia pleaded with residents to “stay safe in Hurricane Ida”. “I know we go through a lot, but we shall get through this like everything else.”
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