Entergy, Louisiana’s largest utility, announced Wednesday that it had restored electricity to about 11,500 customers in New Orleans, but it could be days longer before it and other Louisiana cities hit hard by Hurricane Ida have full power again.
Nearly one million customers in Louisiana were still without power, days after Ida tore through the state, causing flooding and knocking out the transmission lines that power New Orleans. Restarting the city’s power station and critical infrastructure such as hospitals are top priorities.
The news came with the caveat that it could be a few more days before Entergy would have a better estimate of when widespread power would be restored.
Joshua D. Rhodes, a researcher at the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin, said it was difficult to predict when power would be fully restored without a full accounting from Entergy on the damage to its system.
“Usually, there is a core that remains,” Mr. Rhodes said. “But this is a complete and total blackout.
He said that he suspected that New Orleans would regain electricity in its main core “relatively soon,” but cautioned that it could take “weeks, if not months” for everyone to get their power back.
In addition to the widespread power outages, much of southeastern Louisiana was reeling from the Category 4 hurricane.
Drake Foret, 31, a helicopter pilot from Houma, flew over some of the worst-hit areas on Tuesday, getting a bird’s-eye view of the damage and trying to transport people and supplies when he could.
He said the damage was very bad in places like Golden Meadow, Galliano, Cut Off and Larose — a string of towns in the marshy areas along Bayou Lafourche, where strong winds had ripped the roofs off people’s homes.
“That area took a really hard impact,” Mr. Foret said. “I would say at least half of all of the houses down there have severe damage.”
His parents’ home in Larose had been destroyed, and he flew there to check on them, landing briefly to give them a hug. But he has since found it difficult to reach them by phone because of spotty service.
“I think this is the worst damage this area has ever received, and I don’t think it will ever be the same again,” he said.
Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana said at a news conference on Tuesday that the state faces a long recovery.
“This was a really bad storm, for many people worse than Katrina,” the congressman said. “We’ll continue pulling together, and we will get through this, like we’ve gotten through other disasters.”
The deaths of at least seven people have been linked to the storm, including two 19-year-olds who died in Adger, Ala., on Tuesday while working to restore power. The men appeared to have been electrocuted, the coroner’s office said.
Ida was moving northeast on Wednesday, the National Weather Service said, bringing the potential for three to eight inches of rain from the Mid-Atlantic to southern New England. The Weather Service in New York said on Twitter that heavy rain from the system could bring “high potential for significant flooding impacts” to the area.
The effects of the punishing wind and rain were evident in Louisiana, where Cynthia Lee Sheng, president of Jefferson Parish, said at a news conference that a caravan had been able to make it to Grand Isle.
It reported back that the barrier island was uninhabitable.
As a result of 10 to 12 breaks in a levee, Ms. Sheng said, 100 percent of structures were damaged and 40 percent were “either completely destroyed with just the piling showing, or maybe just a wall standing up on that building.”
With no electricity and “extremely fragile” sewer and water systems, Ms. Sheng said she encouraged those still in the area to leave.
“We do not have the services that a basic community has,” she said. “These are not conditions to be living in.”
The last time Peggy Gamberella, 63, heard from her younger sister, she said she had no drinking water or electricity and had lost everything in Hurricane Ida.
The sister, Patricia Killingsworth of Chauvin, La., has a chronic lung disease and has trouble breathing when it’s hot. She relies on a machine to help her breathe, but that device needs to be plugged in. After Ida knocked out her power, Ms. Killingsworth was able to use someone’s generator, her family said.
“I don’t see no help in sight for days,” Mr. Killingsworth, 61, wrote in a text message before pleading, “Send help if you can.”
That was on Monday evening; the family hasn’t heard from her since.
Ms. Gamberella said the family had been scrambling for two days to find help, but she lives more than 200 miles away, in Laurel, Miss.
“I just pray she is OK,” Ms. Gamberella said.
Roads are still blocked in some southern Louisiana communities throughout Terrebonne Parish because of downed trees and power lines, making access and rescue efforts difficult, according to Lauren Smith, volunteer coordinator and spokeswoman for the Cajun Navy Ground Force, a community-led disaster-response organization.
She said that while response teams work to clear the roads, finding fuel to power generators, chain saws, equipment and vehicles is one of the biggest challenges.
Having fuel for generators is especially critical for people with disabilities and medical issues, she said, citing a woman in need of hospice-level care whose generator went out on Monday.
“We had to basically take all the fuel that was running generators for our camp and take it over and fill up her generator,” she said.
In general, communities throughout the Gulf Coast region are more likely to rely on backup generators than solar power, which can lead to problems if there are fuel shortages, according to Andrew Schroeder, vice president for research and analysis at Direct Relief, a nonprofit humanitarian organization.
“Every day that goes by becomes an increasing challenge,” he said. “The first 24 hours, you have maybe not too many problems. By the time you’re into a week, and we’ve seen this with a lot of other places, then you have problems with dialysis, and you have problems with oxygen generation and ventilation.”
According to Department of Health and Human Services data, there are thousands of Medicare beneficiaries who rely on electricity-dependent medical devices living in Orleans, Jefferson, Terrebonne Parishes and other places currently without power.
In Lacombe, La., Megan Alfonso, 33, has been sheltering in place with her mother, Deborah Alfonso, since Saturday.
Her mother, 63, who has chronic lung disease, usually relies on an oxygen concentrator machine that needs to be plugged in. But after the power went out on Sunday afternoon, she switched to using oxygen tanks.
The family started out with five tanks; each one has enough air to last for about two and a half hours. By Tuesday morning, they were on their last tank.
“She’s more scared then anything,” Ms. Alfonso said of her mother. “She started not using them and just risking it so she can save them.”
After waiting for a response from emergency officials or response groups for hours, Ms. Alfonso decided to take a risk. On Tuesday evening, she drove to a medical supply office roughly 30 minutes away, even though she said the vehicle sounded “rough” after being submerged in water hours earlier.
She got four full tanks of oxygen — enough for 10 more hours.
The remnants of Hurricane Ida were expected to drop heavy rain across parts of the Mid-Atlantic and southern New England on Wednesday and Thursday, with life-threatening flash flooding possible in much of those areas, meteorologists said.
The Mid-Atlantic and New England area should anticipate three to eight inches of rain on Wednesday and into Thursday from Ida, the National Weather Service said. The storm hit Louisiana on Sunday as a Category 4 hurricane but has since been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone, according to the National Hurricane Center.
A National Weather Service meteorologist in New York warned the system would be a “significant rainfall event” and warned drivers to stay off the roads Wednesday evening.
“The heaviest and the steadiest of rain looks to fall later tonight, probably after about 7, 8 p.m. this evening and continue into the very early hours of Thursday,” said Dominic Ramunni, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Long Island.
Significant & life-threatening flooding is forecast across the Mid-Atlantic into southern New England today ahead of T.D. Ida. 3-8 inches (with locally higher amounts) of rainfall will lead to widespread major flood impacts, especially in urban areas and areas of steep terrain. pic.twitter.com/jJ2mWcVcMl
— NWS Weather Prediction Center (@NWSWPC) September 1, 2021
Widespread river flooding could occur in southern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, particularly in the Monongahela, Potomac, Susquehanna, Delaware and lower Hudson River basins, forecasters said.
The last storm to hit the Northeast was Henri, which made landfall in southwestern Rhode Island on Aug. 22 as a tropical storm, sending lashing bands of rain across much of New England that knocked out power in most of coastal Rhode Island, forced evacuations in Connecticut, stranded dozens of motorists in New Jersey and shattered rainfall records in New York City.
At its peak, Henri left more than 140,000 households without power from New Jersey to Maine, and in New York City, cars were left stranded in flooded streets. And Henri had followed Elsa, which in early July brought relentless rain and flash flooding to much of the Northeast, downed power lines and forced would-be subway riders to navigate waist-deep waters on their way into one Upper Manhattan station.
Meteorologists were warning on Tuesday that similar high amounts of rain could hit the region as the tropical moisture associated with Ida intersects with strong wind bands over the upper levels of the atmosphere in the Northeast, creating heavy rainfalls.
A flash flood watch will be in effect from Wednesday night to Thursday for New York City, all of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Morning commutes on Thursday could be affected by drainage flooding in much of New England and the Mid-Atlantic, particularly in metropolitan areas, meteorologists said.
“Obviously, it’s been so wet,” Mr. Ramunni said.
“I can tell you it was the second wettest summer on record for Central Park,” he said, adding that the amount of rain in the forecast, “on top of how wet it’s been, is going to cause issues.”
In light of the flash flood watch, New York City Emergency Management issued a travel advisory from Wednesday to Thursday morning. Five to six inches of rain was expected in the city, with winds up to 30 miles per hour. Much of the flash flooding will most likely occur overnight.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio urged New Yorkers to watch out for deceptively deep bodies of water that could appear to be shallow.
“We’ll get through this one, too,” Mr. de Blasio said. “Let’s get this storm by us.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York also ordered state agencies to prepare emergency response plans and told residents to exercise caution. Ms. Hochul also warned of the possibility of a tornado in the downstate area. More than 5,000 utility workers across the state have been prepared for damage and restoration responses, she said.
“I am urging people in areas forecast for heavy rains to prepare for flooding conditions and stay safe,” Ms. Hochul said in a statement.
The storm will move farther into New England on Thursday.
“Ida is basically going to be exiting New England by Thursday night,” said Dan Thompson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “But it’s going to drop heavy rain before it leaves.”
Derrick Bryson Taylor and Ashley Wong contributed reporting.
Downed transmission lines and power plants forced offline by Hurricane Ida have left New Orleans and much of the surrounding region with no electric service, and it may be weeks before repairs are complete.
So thousands of people and businesses have turned to running backup generators and using other improvised means to try to keep at least a few of their lights and appliances working and their phones charged.
But homemade power can come with risks, and the most insidious can be carbon monoxide. It’s a colorless and odorless gas produced by combustion, including the burning of gasoline, kerosene, diesel, natural gas or other fuels in a motor or generator. And if it builds up in the air you breathe, it can be deadly.
“It is important to recognize that carbon monoxide is not something that you are going to taste or see,” said Dr. Emily M. Nichols, an emergency medicine specialist in New Orleans. “It is going to create minor symptoms all the way to death.”
At least 12 people in New Orleans — including seven children — have been taken to hospitals to be treated for carbon monoxide poisoning, the city’s Emergency Medical Services said on Wednesday.
In Baton Rouge, in the first 24 hours after the storm, the fire department responded to about a dozen calls from homes where carbon monoxide was ultimately detected, a spokesman said.
Officials fielded several similar calls in St. Tammany Parish: In the most severe episode, on Tuesday morning, nine people in a home, including an infant, were experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to a fire department spokesman in Slidell. They had been sleeping while using a generator inside of a garage. They were taken to nearby hospitals and were expected to recover.
Running a generator in any confined space — a house, a shed, a basement — can be very dangerous, health experts say. So can indoor use of charcoal, any kind of gasoline- or kerosene-powered engine, or even a portable gas camp stove.
Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, weakness, dizziness and nausea, according to the Firelands Regional Medical Center in Sandusky, Ohio. But if you are asleep or have been drinking, carbon monoxide can kill you before you become aware of any symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s not unusual to see reports of carbon monoxide poisoning in times of natural disaster or severe weather, when people lose access to regular sources of power and heat and have to improvise. Scores of people were sickened and died in February when a frigid winter storm plunged unusually far south, knocking out power and bursting pipes in places like Houston.
But carbon monoxide poisoning is “entirely preventable,” the C.D.C. says.
The agency urges everyone to have working carbon monoxide detectors in their homes at all times, and local codes require them in many places. When the alarm sounds, it should be heeded immediately, by seeking fresh air outdoors or at a wide open window and by making sure everyone in the home has reached safety.
If you have a generator, use it in a well-ventilated outdoor area. If you run your car engine to charge a phone or other device, or make use of the feature on some vehicles that lets the engine be used as a generator, don’t do it in a garage.
The effects of Hurricane Ida will be felt far from where it made landfall in southern Louisiana on Sunday. As it moves across the Upper Ohio Valley and toward the Northeast later in the week, it is likely to cause heavy downpours, including up to 10 inches of rain in some parts of the Mid-Atlantic. More than 80 million Americans were under a flood watch or advisory, with the majority associated with Ida’s heavy rains.
Although scientists are not yet certain about how climate change affects every characteristic of tropical cyclones, there is broad consensus that a warming climate will bring more extreme and heavy rainfall during storms. Warming increases the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, which in turn can produce more rain.
“We tend to think that once tropical storms move over land they run out of fuel,” said Rosimar Ríos-Barríos, a research meteorologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. But the winds in a tropical storm can extend thousands of miles from its center. In this case, even as Ida moves inland, Dr. Ríos-Barríos said, it will continue to draw in very warm, wet air from over the Gulf of Mexico and wrap it around its cyclone. That air can contribute to worsening rainfall.
“We are seeing this increase in extreme rainfall for all types of events,” said Suzana Camargo, a climate scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. “With hurricanes, we would expect more intense rainfall. That’s what happened with Ida.”
The amount of rainfall associated with a tropical cyclone has to do with how hard it rains and for how long, which itself depends on a cyclone’s speed. Rainfall from Hurricane Harvey, the wettest tropical cyclone on record, dropped more than 60 inches in eastern Texas in 2017. The heavy rain, and subsequent flooding, was caused in part by the hurricane stalling near the coastline.
Ida was continuing to move at around 10 to 15 miles an hour, “an expected pace,” said Dr. Ríos-Barríos. The primary weather system in the United States moves in a general V-shaped pattern. Winds from the Western United States move south toward the Gulf of Mexico, then turn toward the northern Atlantic. But other weather systems can bring currents in opposing directions, changing the direction of a storm or altering its speed.
As a tropical cyclone moves farther inland, its path is driven by a contrast in temperature. Dr. Ríos-Barríos said that may be one reason central Pennsylvania and West Virginia are expected to see such extreme rainfall, up to 10 inches in some places. There, the cyclone may develop a warm front, which will lift the air, create clouds, and produce more rainfall.
Many of these areas in the storm’s path have already received exceptional rain this summer, leaving some rivers higher and soils more saturated, worsening the risk of flooding. The Middle Tennessee Valley, which experienced flash flooding earlier this month that killed at least 20 people, may see up to four inches of rain on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Whether climate change made Ida and the scope of its flooding more likely, and if so, by how much, won’t be known until scientists can perform an attribution study, a type of research that quantifies the links between climate change and specific extreme weather events.
But scientists agree that Ida is a harbinger of future hurricanes. “If our planet continues to warm at the alarming pace that it is warming, then Ida is an example of what we might expect to see in the future,” said Dr. Ríos-Barríos. “That’s very scary.”
An arrest warrant was issued on Tuesday for a man who angrily confronted an NBC News reporter live on TV while covering Hurricane Ida in Gulfport, Miss., screaming, “Report accurately!” in his face.
The man, Benjamin Eugene Dagley, 54, of Wooster, Ohio, will be charged with two counts of simple assault, one count of disturbing the peace and one count of violating an emergency curfew, the Gulfport Police Department said.
Mr. Dagley, who is on probation for an incident in Ohio involving a break-in at a metal plating shop, may also be in violation of travel restrictions that are part of his probation, the police said.
The Gulfport police said Mr. Dagley had left the area by Tuesday and was traveling in his white Ford F-150 pickup truck. His location was unknown as of Tuesday night, the police said.
It was unclear why Mr. Dagley had been in Gulfport — about 1,000 miles from his home — a day after a major hurricane hit the area. Phone calls placed to a number listed as belonging to Mr. Dagley were not returned on Tuesday night.
A live report from NBC News shows that he whipped his pickup truck off the road and into the backdrop of Shaquille Brewster’s shot as the reporter described the effects of Hurricane Ida, which had made landfall on the Gulf Coast on Sunday.
Mr. Dagley can be seen stepping out of his truck and running toward Mr. Brewster, who pauses and says, “I think we even have a random person going around.”
“You’re reporting this accurately, right?” Mr. Dagley says.
Mr. Brewster shifts so that the water is his backdrop and continues to speak to the camera. Mr. Dagley can be heard yelling in the background, though it is unclear what he is saying, and he is not visible in the shot.
A few seconds later, the scene appears to escalate.
“I’m going to toss it back to you,” Mr. Brewster tells Craig Melvin, an anchor for NBC. “We have a person who needs a little help right now.”
Mr. Dagley is seen moving toward Mr. Brewster as he screams in his face, “Report accurately!” and bumps into him before NBC cuts away. Mr. Melvin then tells viewers that the network will check in with Mr. Brewster later and that “there’s a lot of crazy out there.”
Later in the broadcast, Mr. Melvin says Mr. Brewster is OK.
Mr. Brewster, who did not respond to emails and requests for comment on social media on Tuesday night, said in an Instagram post that he was “overwhelmed by the love and support” after “the wildest moment I’ve had on air.”
“Our team joked about it afterwards, but it was without a doubt as scary for us as it was for you all watching,” he said. “While that one report was interrupted, we were right back up in the next hour and will continue reporting as we are here to do.”
Appreciate the concern guys. The team and I are all good!
— Shaquille Brewster (@shaqbrewster) August 30, 2021
Clevelend.com reported in 2017 that Mr. Dagley had been arrested on suspicion of breaking into an electroplating shop that he once owned and drilling holes into tanks holding dangerous chemicals. He pleaded guilty to vandalism, inducing panic and attempted assault, according to court records from Cuyahoga County.
After the confrontation in Gulfport, Mr. Melvin said on Twitter, “This is beyond unacceptable and disgusting.”
Local and national volunteers and aid groups are prepared to rescue, feed and give shelter to those who have been affected by Hurricane Ida and its aftermath. Here is some guidance for those who wish to help.
Before you give, do your research.
Natural disasters create ripe opportunities for fraudsters who prey on vulnerable people in need and exploit the generous impulses of others who want to donate money to help them. The Federal Communications Commission noted that scammers use phone calls, text messages, email and postal mail, and even go door to door. The Federal Trade Commission has tips on how to spot a fraudulent charity or fund-raiser.
Donations of money, rather than of goods, are usually the best way to help, because they are more flexible and can readily be redirected when needs change.
If you suspect that an organization or individual is engaged in fraudulent activity after a natural disaster, report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud, or to the Federal Emergency Management Agency at 1-866-720-5721. FEMA also maintains a website that fact-checks information about assistance and highlights ways to avoid scams.
Here are some local organizations in the storm area.
All Hands and Hearts prepared for Ida by stationing its disaster assessment and response team in Beaumont, Texas. Its volunteers will enter areas affected by the storm when they can, meeting initial needs that will probably include chain-saw work to clear debris and trees, roof tarping, mucking and gutting flooded houses, and sanitizing homes with mold contamination.
The Second Harvest Food Bank, which serves South Louisiana, has prepared more than 3,500 disaster-readiness food boxes with items like rehydration drinks and nutrition bars, as well as bottled water. It also maintains cooking equipment that can be transported to heat prepared meals. Donations of bottled water and cleaning supplies are welcome. Volunteers can apply to help, but donating money is the most efficient way to assist the aid effort, the organization said.
Culture Aid NOLA has set up an impromptu cooking hub at the Howlin’ Wolf nightclub in New Orleans using thawing food from the freezers of restaurants experiencing power outages. The meals will be distributed to people in need, said Julie Pfeffer, a director. The group, which was originally formed to help people during the pandemic, has a donations page. It needs volunteers, trucks and takeaway containers.
AirLink is a nonprofit humanitarian flight organization that ships aid, emergency workers and medical personnel to communities in crisis. It has joined Operation BBQ Relief to supply equipment, cooks and volunteers to prepare meals for people affected by the storm. Donations are welcome.
SBP, originally known as the St. Bernard Project, was founded in 2006 by a couple in St. Bernard Parish who were frustrated by the slow response after Hurricane Katrina. It focuses on restoring damaged homes and businesses and supporting recovery policies. Its Hurricane Ida plan needs donations, which will pay for supplies for home rebuilding and protective equipment for team members.
A number of volunteer rescue groups operate under some variation of the name Cajun Navy. One is Cajun Navy Relief, a volunteer disaster response team that became a formal nonprofit organization in 2017; it has provided relief and rescue services during more than a dozen of Louisiana’s floods, hurricanes and tropical storms. The team has identified supplies that are needed and is accepting donations.
Rebuilding Together New Orleans, which uses volunteer labor to repair homes, accepts donations to help with its work. The organization has also created an online wish list, and a hotline number: 844-965-1386.
Bayou Community Foundation works with local partners in Terrebonne Parish, Lafourche Parish and Grand Isle in coastal southeast Louisiana. It has set up an Ida relief fund.
Louisiana Baptists, a statewide network of 1,600 churches, has an online form for people to request help in recovery. Its relief efforts include the removal of trees from homes and the tarping of roofs, as well as meals, laundry services and counseling. Those wishing to donate can go here.
National organizations are lending a hand.
AmeriCares, a health-focused relief and development organization, is responding to Ida in Louisiana and Mississippi and matching donations. Vito Castelgrande, the leader of its Hurricane Ida team, said the organization would begin assessing damage in the hardest-hit communities when it is safe to travel.
Mercy Chefs, a Virginia-based nonprofit group, was founded in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the hometown of its founder, Gary LeBlanc. The organization has served more than 15 million meals to people affected by natural disasters or who have other needs. The group has deployed two mobile kitchens to serve hot meals in Ida’s wake and is accepting donations.
GoFundMe has created a centralized hub with verified GoFundMe fund-raisers to help those affected by Ida. It will be updated with new fund-raisers as they are verified.
Project HOPE has sent an emergency response team with 11 medical volunteers and has distributed 8,000 hygiene kits, which include items like shampoo, soap, a toothbrush, deodorant and first-aid supplies. Donations can be made solely for Hurricane Ida emergency relief.
The Red Cross has mobilized hundreds of trained disaster workers and relief supplies to support people in evacuation shelters. About 600 volunteers were prepared to support Ida relief efforts, and shelters have been opened in Louisiana and Mississippi, with cots, blankets, comfort kits and ready-to-eat meals. The organization has also positioned products needed for blood transfusions. Donations can be made through redcross.org, or 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or by texting the word REDCROSS to 90999.
The Salvation Army has prepared field kitchens and other relief supplies to help along the Gulf Coast.
United Way of Southeast Louisiana is collecting donations for a relief fund to rebuild and provide long-term assistance, including community grants.
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