Ns News Online Desk: A million people are without power in Louisiana as Hurricane Ida is downgraded to a tropical storm. The storm brought 150mph (240km/h) winds when it made landfall and those people who did not flee have been advised to shelter in place.
One person was killed when a tree fell on their home in Ascension Parish, in the Baton Rouge area. Ida will test New Orleans’ flood defenses, strengthened after Hurricane Katrina killed 1,800 people in 2005.
President Joe Biden said Ida would be “life-threatening”, with immense devastation likely beyond the coasts.Over one million homes in Louisiana are without power, and Mr Biden said it could take weeks to restore supplies.
The president has declared a major disaster in the state, releasing extra funds for rescue and recovery efforts. Ida gathered strength over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico during the weekend.
It made landfall on Sunday south of New Orleans as a category four hurricane – meaning it would cause severe damage to buildings, trees and power lines. As it moves inland, Ida’s winds have dropped to 95mph (153km/h), meaning it is now a category one storm.
In some places the storm surge could be as high as 16ft (4.8m), potentially submerging parts of the low-lying coastline. High winds tore part of the roof off a hospital in the town of Cut Off, Louisiana, just inland from the Gulf of Mexico. The hospital said it had suffered “significant damage” but that its patients were safe.
The impact of climate change on the frequency of storms is still unclear, but increased sea surface temperatures warm the air above, making more energy available to drive hurricanes. In a tweet, the US National Weather Service (NWS) told New Orleans residents: “Go to an interior room or a small room with no windows. Stay put during this time.”
Louisiana hospitals are already under pressure from Covid-19. The state has the third-highest rate of infections in the US.
Normally, hospitals in the predicted path of the hurricane would be evacuated, but this time there are few beds available, even at facilities further inland.
“We don’t have any place to bring those patients. Not in state, not out of state,” Mr Edwards said.
More than 90% of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico has been shut down.
Hurricane categories on the Saffir-Simpson scale