Hurricane Ida: the slow recovery continues

20 September 2021

Louisiana is still slowly recovering from the devastation caused by hurricane Ida, which is reckoned the fifth-strongest in history to strike the US mainland, dumping more than 13 inches of rain in some southern regions in a few days and leaving whole neighbourhoods under water and without power.

ABC reported on 4 September that at least 11 people had died in the state owing to the Category 4 storm that struck the mainland on 30 August. Other reports spoke of scores of casualties across the east of the country that in due course brought the figure to 111 as the hurricane made its way northwards towards the New England coast.

Although over 720 000 customers in the state were reported to be without power during the first few days, a situation made worse as the state sweltered under a heatwave, by 4 September power had been restored to nearly 328 000 people. At that time Entergy expected power to be restored in the New Orleans area by 8 September. It is believed that about 70% of the population were reconnected by that date, and by the 10th all of New Orleans, but in some districts power will not return before 29 September, a figure that has since been revised to ‘end of the month’.

Entergy originally that 22 567 electricity poles, 26 729 spans of wire and 5261 transformers were damaged or destroyed in Louisiana and Mississippi – that is more poles damaged or destroyed than in Hurricanes Katrina, Zeta and Delta combined. 

By 4 September six of the eight major transmission lines that deliver power into the New Orleans area had been restored, but by the 9th a more accurate tally of damage to the transmission infrastructure had been reckoned – Ida’s 240 km/h winds had damaged or destroyed more than 30 000 power-line poles and nearly 6000 transformers across the region. 

Although in New Orleans power was almost entirely restored by 10 September, with businesses and schools reopening, outside the city more than 100 000 customers were without lights through to 13 September and as of 17 September there were still about 38 000 customers without power.

What seems to have caused great surprise was the extent to which Ida ravaged Louisiana’s power grid, some of which has yet to be restored. Ida is the sixth tropical cyclone to make landfall in Louisiana since the start of 2020, and scientists are worried that the frequency of the storms, combined with a failure by state and local officials to adapt infrastructure to climate change, will imperil the millions of people who live along the Louisiana coast.

There are concerns about how much more of this the area can take, and yet continue to spring back every time.


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