The death toll from Hurricane Ida rose to at least four after a highway collapsed in Mississippi, millions were still without power, and flooding remained a threat Tuesday as remnants of the monster storm moved into other states.
“Some of these cars are stacked on top of each other,” Mississippi Highway Patrol Cp. Cal Robertson said. Two deaths have been confirmed in Louisiana, including a person hit by a falling tree outside Baton Rouge and later a driver who drowned in New Orleans. Gov. John Bel Edwards said at least 671 people had been rescued from floodwaters in Louisiana by Monday afternoon.
Power remained out Tuesday to more than 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and another 90,000 in Mississippi, Alabama and Virginia, according to grid-monitoring website poweroutage.com.
Ida roared onto the Gulf Coast near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, on Sunday with 150-mph winds before heading northeast toward Mississippi. Ida had quieted to tropical depression status over Mississippi on Tuesday and had sustained winds of 30 mph. The National Weather Service warned that the heavy rain and flooding threat would spread from the Tennessee and Ohio valleys up through the Mid-Atlantic states on Wednesday.
“Considerable flash flooding is possible,” Meteorologist Alex Lamers said.
The New Orleans Police Department said it has deployed anti-looting teams across the city to protect property during the recovery process. Videos circulated on social media appear to show some businesses being cleaned out by looters. Mayor LaToya Cantrell emphasized at a press conference on Monday that “there is no widespread looting operation going on throughout the city of New Orleans,” and vowed to lock up anyone caught in the act.
“Looting will NOT be tolerated and (we) encourage everyone to be good neighbors and say something when you see something,” the department tweeted.
The remnants of Hurricane Ida are headed to Tennessee and are expected to bring up to five inches of rain to Waverly, where 20 people died in flooding just 10 days ago. The forecast includes a flash flood watch, as Waverly is expected to receive 24 hours of almost continuous moderate to heavy rain through Tuesday night.
“The system overall is weakening but it is going to bring a lot of rain up here,” said John Cohen, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Nashville.
Last week’s high temperatures and sun helped dry out lawns and the growing piles of debris. But a blast from Ida could hinder the town’s effort to trudge forward. Gretchen Turner’s with the kitchen cabinets, leather couch, suitcases and many of her other belongings were piled onto her front lawn.
“It’s sort of demoralizing when you’re working so hard and then everything gets wet,” Turner said with glossing eyes. “We still have lots of dirt everywhere, but it’s about to be mud again.”
Two people were killed and at least 10 others were injured when their vehicles plunged into a deep hole where a highway collapsed after Ida blew through George County, Mississippi. Torrential rain may have caused the collapse, and the drivers may not have seen that the roadway in front of them had disappeared Monday night, Mississippi Highway Patrol Cp. Cal Robertson said. Seven vehicles were involved, including a motorcycle. A crane was brought in to lift them out of the hole, which Robertson said was 50 to 60 feet in length and 20 to 30 feet deep.
More than 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana remained dark Tuesday, meaning more than 2 million state residents remain in the dark, Gov. John Bel Edwards said. The utility Entergy Louisiana said some customers could experience outages for more than three weeks. Damage to eight high-voltage lines took out power for New Orleans and Jefferson, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, as well as parts of St. Charles and Terrebonne parishes, the company said. One transmission tower collapsed, causing the tower’s conductor and wires to land in the Mississippi River.
Entergy New Orleans CEO Deanna Rodriguez said it was too soon to estimate when power would return to all customers.
“This will be a marathon, not a sprint,” Deanna Rodriguez said. “We’re working as safely and quickly as we can… but we must all be prepared for the recovery to take some time.”
Hurricane Ida has pummeled Louisiana’s parishes, strapping hospital and health resources. Experts worry Ida’s impact will worsen COVID-19 spread in the state’s low-lying parishes, where some vaccination rates are only about a third of the population and cases have surged to all-time highs. Crowded shelters, delayed treatments and inundated hospitals and intensive care units are a recipe that put under-vaccinated communities at dire risk for more infections, experts said. The unvaccinated account for the majority of deaths and hospitalizations.
“This is a pandemic tinderbox,” said pediatrician Irwin Redlener, founding director of Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness.
– Nada Hassanein
A man was attacked by an alligator in floodwaters near the city of Slidell, just across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, Jason Gaubert, a spokesman for the St. Tammany Fire District No. 1, told USA TODAY. Gaubert said the attack took the man’s arm off and his wife went to call for help. When she returned, he had disappeared in the floodwaters. The man’s body hasn’t been recovered and officials were investigating. Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng noted some swamplands had flooded and dangers were real for first responders and those living in the area.
“This is an area that has a lot of swampland, alligators, very dangerous conditions,” she told CNN, adding that some areas saw flooding that was “beyond chest high. It’s up to the top of the roof.”
– Christal Hayes
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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