Update 6:50 a.m. ET, Aug. 30, 2021:
Hurricane Ida weakened as it crossed into Mississippi, shifting to a Tropical Storm. Citing PowerOutage.US, CNN reported early Monday morning that over a million customers were without power across Louisiana. The site estimated over 110,000 customers were without power in Mississippi.
Despite its downgrade, the after-effects of Ida will still be felt Monday. CNN tweeted “life-threatening flash flooding” could be expected.
The storm overwhelmed the levees in Jean Lafitte, south of New Orleans. But there was no structural damage to the levees. Local news reported over 150 people were stranded on rooftops. Conditions were considered too dangerous for a damage assessment early Monday morning, but crews were on standby to begin searching hopefully after daylight breaks.
Some hospitals within the state’s largest medical system were in need of evacuation due to flooding, generator failures, and structural damage. New Orleans Public Radio reported sixty patients were being evacuated from two hospitals in Houma and Raceland.
Sixteen years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and nearby communities along the Gulf Coast, residents have hunkered down for Hurricane Ida. While this is the second hurricane season in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the surge of the delta variant has created challenges for already stressed systems pushed to the brink.
Urging vaccinations before Ida made landfall, medical and public health officials across Louisiana have tried to make the best out of the situation at hand. Officials across the state, including Baton Rouge and New Orleans, prepared as best as possible with reported outages across the region.
Gov. John Bel Edwards told the Associated Press the state was in a “dangerous place with our hospitals.” But the head of Ochsner Health, the largest hospital network in Louisiana, said a few smaller hospitals were evacuated to larger facilities.
Ida will test the investments made post-Katrina in Louisiana. As Gulf Coast residents endure Hurricane Ida, several school districts and HBCUs issued guidance to students on weathering the storm.
Some districts have switched children to virtual learning instead of canceling classes outright. The East Baton Rouge Parish School System sent students home with homework and announced that students would not be penalized for missing work.
HBCUs in the New Orleans area, which did not order an evacuation of residents within the protected levee system, provided guidance for students ahead of the storm, including detailed emergency goods.
Xavier University and Dillard University announced Friday that the campus would close and shelter in place. Students at both schools were advised to check Tuesday for further information about reopening. Campus communities were urged to follow COVID-19 protocols as best as possible.
The current trajectory takes Ida through major points in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Like Louisiana, Mississippi has been hard hit by the delta variant. Just as Hurricane Ida makes its way through the region, Mississippi grapples with a health system in disarray.
The New York Times reported the system had been barely hanging on before the pandemic began. With a political establishment stuck on working against needed reforms, like Medicaid expansion, and a severely distressed system the Magnolia state struggles.
And while the internet posts their hopes and prayers for the Gulf, mutual aid funds have organized to aid those riding out this storm. Seen as a form of solidarity, not charity, mutual aid groups mobilize to provide for individuals and communities often filling in the gaps where government fails.
Another Gulf is a woman-led grassroots collective supporting organizations and individuals in Louisiana and East Texas. “This region is also one of the epicenters of the petro-chemical industry, adding an even more frightening element to the recovery process,” wrote the group. “The land and water will surely be (further) toxified from the damage caused due to flooding from the storm surge, high-velocity wind (up to 150 mph), in addition to possible chemical spills, flares, and fires.”