Hurricane Ida ripped through the Gulf Of Mexico Sunday, leaving New Orleans beaten, battered, and without power. Police have deployed “anti-looting” around the city as a way to deter the looting it saw when Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005.
16 years after Katrina, another record-breaking Ida’s devastation looks to add the stress of many poor folks who couldn’t evacuate. Hurricane Ida, a Category 4 storm, first hit Port Fourchon, southeast of the state. It then pushed up through New Orleans headed towards Mississippi. With winds pushing above 150 mph, Ida strengthened rapidly and pushed overland with little to slow it down. Pummeling the coast, Ida pulled trees from their roots, flipped cars, tore roofs from their houses, and even knocked over a huge transmission tower into the Mississippi River.
The collapse of the tower, which took place at the Nine Mile Point power plant near Avondale, reportedly caused widespread power outages for large parts of New Orleans. Officials are still trying to recover the tower and its power lines, which remain submerged underwater. The outage also knocked out the 911 emergency line.
Katrina and Ida were two very different storms, but both were extremely destructive. Katrina, a category 5 hurricane, caused over 1,800 deaths and $81 billion in property damages. Its estimated total economic impact exceeds $150 billion, the costliest hurricane in U.S. history.
Katrina was a much larger storm and brought with it long-lasting power outages that put many residents who were already stranded, in even more of a dire situation. Katrina made landfall on August 29, 2005, but George Bush didn’t sign the 10.5 billion relief package until September 2, 2005. The delayed response led to massive looting and violence. People took to the stores, looting drug stores, department stores, grocery stores, and gas stations. Many of the looters were stranded survivors looking for food, water, and clothing. There were even reports that NOPD officers were among the looters.
Hurricane Ida’s death rate is yet to be determined, and damages haven’t been assessed in their entirety, but the cost of damages should reach the hundreds of billions. Police did, however, take a page from the lessons of Katrina and deployed a group of “anti-looting” officers to patrol the streets during the aftermath of Ida. Shaun Ferguson, New Orleans Police Department Superintendent announced the plan Sunday evening and hopes the “anti-looting” officers can deter looting and violence during this time of unrest. The move is aimed at keeping looters from gaining access to any stores during the power outage. Although warranted, some see the move as putting business and money over the well-being of New Orleans citizens. Critics say prioritizing the policing of looters during a time of crisis is nothing more than criminalizing the poor when they need help and resources the most.
Ramsey Green, the deputy chief administrative officer for infrastructure, believes New Orleans’ levees are in a good place, but other caution patience and admit New Orleans has a long road of rehabilitation standing its way.