Ida Updates: Gov. Edwards: 191 rescued with efforts ongoing
The Latest on Hurricane Ida:
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state’s focus after Hurricane Ida continues to be centered on search and rescue, to make sure all the hardest-hit areas are checked multiple times.
“Saving lives is the number one priority,” he said. “Those search and rescue efforts are going to continue all day, and quite frankly for as long as necessary.”
The governor said the Louisiana National Guard alone rescued 191 people across St. John the Baptist, Jefferson and Orleans parishes by boat, helicopter and high-water vehicle. More than 5,000 Guard soldiers are working on the disaster response, and more soldiers are expected from other states within days.
Edwards said the state will soon be transitioning into a “grid search” of the hardest hit areas, going to search every single home on each street to determine if anyone is home and needing assistance.
“Then, to make sure that we’ve adequately covered the area, we’ll go back and do a secondary search,” he said. “But what we did mostly to date today was try to catch up on the 911 calls. So we were actively partnered with local authorities and going out and doing search and rescue at individual addresses where we know people had called for help.”
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HURRICANE IDA:
Rescuers set out in hundreds of boats and helicopters to reach people trapped by floodwaters, and utility repair crews rushed in, after a furious Hurricane Ida swamped the Louisiana coast and ravaged the electrical grid in the sticky, late-summer heat.
— As Ida leaves Gulf, analysts foresee modest economic damage
— No cash or gas to run from Ida: ‘We can’t afford to leave’
— Flood-ravaged Tennessee community braces for Ida remnants
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards urged evacuees not to try to return home, citing the widespread power outages, road closures and other dangerous conditions.
“There are an awful lot of unknowns right now. There are certainly more questions than answers. I can’t tell you when power is going to be restored. I can’t tell you when all the debris is going to be cleaned up and repairs made and so forth. What I can tell you is we’re going to work hard every single day to deliver as much assistance as we possibly can.”
He noted that cell service is being restored quickly by AT&T and others that suffered outages. He said most of the communication problems experienced in the early hours of the storm and its aftermath have been remedied.
“Right now the overwhelming majority of communications that need to take place are happening.”
GRAND ISLE, La. — There was a hopeful sign Monday from firefighters and others who rode out the storm on Grand Isle, Louisiana – in the bullseye of Hurricane Ida, a Louisiana sheriff said.
“As best we can tell about 40 people stayed on the island. Probably not a good decision,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “We’re not aware of any loss of life … I’m quite certain that any immediate rescues have been made.”
“They’re still cut off,” Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto said by phone late Monday. “Highway 1 goes under, and they are cut off from the rest of the world.”
But a helicopter flew over Grand Isle on Monday, “and we were able to see several of them out there — firefighters – cleaning the road,” Lopinto said.
Several of them gave the helicopter pilot a “thumbs-up” sign, he said.
Lopinto wasn’t able Monday to say that everyone was accounted for, but said he felt certain that those who remained on Grand Isle have checked on them.
Rescuers would try to reach them as soon as they are able, he said.
MIAMI — Ida has been downgraded to a tropical depression the day after it slammed Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane.
The National Hurricane Center said Ida’s maximum sustained winds had dropped to 35 mph (56 kph) by Monday afternoon as the storm’s remnants churned northwest of Jackson, Mississippi. Forecasters said heavy rain from Ida remains a threat as it moves northeast.
The hurricane center said the storm may dump as much as 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain in central Mississippi through Tuesday. And it could trigger flash flooding in parts of the Tennessee Valley, the Ohio Valley and the Mid-Atlantic later in the week.
Ida made landfall in Louisiana on Sunday, becoming the fifth most powerful hurricane to strike the United States.
WASHINGTON — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says a nuclear power plant 25 miles west of New Orleans has declared an “unusual event″ — its lowest level of emergency — after the facility lost offsite electrical power.
The Waterford nuclear plant in Killona, La., had shut down protectively on Saturday in anticipation of Hurricane Ida. The plant has maintained safe shutdown conditions with power from emergency diesel generators, the nuclear agency said.
On Sunday night, grid operators requested that the River Bend nuclear power plant in St. Francisville, Louisiana, reduce power because of load demands. The plant is stable and operating at 35 percent power with no significant equipment issues reported, officials said.
The Grand Gulf nuclear plant in Port Gibson, Mississippi, is operating at full power with no significant weather-related issues expected from Ida. No significant flooding has been reported at any of the sites.
Ida weakened to a tropical storm as it moved to Mississippi.
LAPLACE, La. — Residents in the hard-hit town of Laplace, Louisiana, are beginning to make repairs — or simply salvage what’s left — in the wake of Hurricane Ida.
John Vincent, whose Laplace subdivision was covered by floodwaters, said it seems like the water has risen faster since flood walls were built in other communities farther east. He blamed a lack of coordination between parishes.
“It seems like now with any kind of storm it doesn’t take anything to flood,” said Vincent, 65.
Ida left him frustrated and angry over the prospect of having to once again deal with a damaged home, insurance and contractors.
“My dreams are destroyed. I mean, at my age I’ve got to start all over,” Vincent said.
Elsewhere in Laplace, northwest of New Orleans, residents waded in a flooded mobile home park and a convoy of ambulances with emergency lights flashing headed into town past homes with missing roofs.
Dozens of people pulled pieces of chimneys, gutters and other parts of their homes to the curb to be hauled away.
Carlos Paz Jr., and his parents spent Monday repairing the roof of a second home they’d been preparing to move into.
“The damage can be replaced. A life can’t,” said Paz, 18.
Elsewhere, AT&T said its wireless network in Louisiana is operating at 60% of normal after Ida, describing “significant outages” in New Orleans and Baton Rouge from power supply disruptions, flooding and storm damages.
The company said some of its facilities remained inaccessible Monday. A mobile tower was sent to the governor’s emergency preparedness office to help get their phones up and running again.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has spoken with officials in states pounded by Hurricane Ida, detailing the federal effort to survey damage and ensure access to electricity, water and cell phone service.
The president said Monday that state officials should contact the White House if they need additional support — even though the effort is being led by FEMA.
“We’ll get you what you need if we can,” Biden said. “The people of Louisiana and Mississippi are resilient. But it’s in moments like these where we can certainly see the power of government to respond to the needs of the people, if government’s prepared and if they respond.”
Also Monday, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said it had activated its Hurricane Response Team as Hurricane Ida made its way through the Gulf.
Based on data from offshore operator reports submitted as of late morning Monday, personnel have been evacuated from a total of 288 production platforms, 51.43 percent of the 560 manned platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.
Personnel have been evacuated from 11 rigs, equivalent to 100% of the 11 rigs of this type currently operating in the Gulf. Rigs can include several types of offshore drilling facilities.
A total of seven dynamically positioned rigs have moved off location out of the storm’s projected path, as a precaution.
It is estimated that approximately 94.6% of the current oil production in the Gulf of Mexico has been shut in, according to operator reports.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement estimates that approximately 93.57% of the gas production in the Gulf has been shut in.
Production information included in these reports is based on the amount of oil and gas the operator expected to produce that day. The shut-in production figures therefore are estimates, which the agency compares to historical production.
The facilities will be inspected after the storm has passed.
NEW ORLEANS — Mayor LaToya Cantrell says a driver in New Orleans drowned during Hurricane Ida, which may raise the storm’s death toll to two.
Cantrell says additional details about the death would come from the coroner’s office, but those were not immediately forthcoming.
“This case remains under investigation,” coroner’s spokesman Jason Melancon said when asked in an email about Cantrell’s statement. He would not answer specific questions about whether the coroner’s office is investigating a drowning death or an Ida-related death.
A person also was killed outside Baton Rouge amid the storm when a tree fell on a home, authorities said.
The name of either victim have yet to be released.
NEW ORLEANS — Police in New Orleans say they have received numerous reports of stealing from stores and other businesses, and made several arrests, in the wake of Hurricane Ida.
“This will not be tolerated,” Police Chief Shaun Ferguson said at a Monday briefing. He specifically described what was occurring as looting, saying, “This is a state felony, and we will be booking you accordingly.”
The police chief added of a storm that has left widespread damage, “This is not the time to take opportunity of our vulnerable population right now, which we all are vulnerable at this point in time.”
New Orleans police are working with the Louisiana National Guard to prevent thefts. Police are working 12-hour shifts, and it’s “all hands on deck,” Ferguson said.
The storm damaged power and water systems in many parts of Louisiana and made communication difficult. AT&T said Monday that it has set up a mobile tower at the Louisiana emergency preparedness and state police compound in the state capital of Baton Rouge, to try and get cell service working for the governor’s office and other first responders.
WASHINGTON — U.S. health officials Monday declared public health emergencies for Louisiana and Mississippi, seeking to suspend government red tape that may get in the way of providing help to people affected by Hurricane Ida.
The emergency declaration by Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra puts a pause on certain payment rules and other requirements that could become an unwelcome distraction for hospitals and doctors trying to provide services under stressful conditions.
One example is a requirement that health care professionals be licensed in the state they provide care.
HHS has also staged an incident management team in Dallas to provide coordination of federal health and medical support after Ida passes through the region. Another team is providing support for people needing kidney dialysis.
People in emotional distress in affected areas can call 1-800-985-5990 for counseling help, or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans residents faced a massive cleanup effort and possibly weeks without power. Whole toppled trees blocked streets, pulled down power lines, covered yards and damaged homes.
With power likely to be out for weeks, John Pope said he would survive without electricity — with help from neighbors who have a generator — until a scheduled trip out of town next week.
Ehab Meselhe, a professor in Tulane’s engineering school, planned to head out of town once he and his wife finished cleaning up the tree branches and limbs littering their yard. “I have another house in Lafayette,” he said. “Once power is back, we’ll come back.”
A few blocks away, Hank Fanberg stuffed hurricane debris into a garbage back as generators roared on either side of his lightly damaged house. He said neighbors on both sides have generators and they have both already offered, “so we’re going to be in good shape in terms of some electricity.”
Sitting on a screened porch while listening to a battery-operated radio and feeding her one-year-old daughter, Pamela Mitchell wasn’t sure what she would do. She had already spent a hot and frightening night at home while Ida’s winds shrieked. She was thinking about trying to leave. But her 14-year-old daughter, Michelle, was determined to stay, preparing to clean out the refrigerator and put perishables in an ice chest. “We went a week before — with Zeta,” she said, recalling the hurricane that hit the city last fall. “So, we’ll be all right.”