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Hurricane Ida Knocks Out Power in Parts of Louisiana

Hurricane Ida—a Category 4 storm bringing winds up to 150 miles per hour—smashed into the coast of Louisiana yesterday, knocking out electricity for the city of New Orleans. Power outages have spread to other parts of the state, as well as Mississippi.

Because of the storm’s “catastrophic intensity,” all eight transmission lines that deliver power into the city were out of service, which caused a load imbalance and a failure of all power generation in the region, The New York Times reported. As of late Sunday, the only power in the city came from generators. Early Monday morning, more than 850,000 customers were still affected by the outages. According to Entergy, some customers in the hardest-hit areas may experience outages for up to three weeks.

Two out of five generators at a Thibodaux Regional Health Systems hospital failed during the power outage, according to CNN, and hospital staff were forced to move patients—including critical care COVID-19 patients—down stairwells to functional areas of the hospital.

Hospitals were already crowded with COVID-19 patients in Louisiana, NPR reported, and while hospitals usually try to discharge as many patients and staff as possible prior to a hurricane, the number of patients in intensive care units made that impossible this time around. Health officials instead tried to divert critical care patients to northern facilities further outside of the storm’s path. Ochsner Health will need to evacuate roughly 60 patients out of two of its facilities after flooding, roof damage, and generator failures.

Compounding the damage, an electrical tower collapsed during the storm, sending power lines tumbling into the Mississippi River, CNN reported. The underwater lines will complicate the recovery process, officials told CNN.

Now a tropical storm, Ida has sustained winds of around 45 mph, and is moving north over southwest Mississippi, according to a Monday morning update from the National Hurricane Center. The storm continues to pose a flash flood threat to more than 50 million people from Louisiana to West Virginia.

Rainfall is now the biggest threat; according to the National Hurricane Center, “Through Tuesday morning, Ida will produce additional rainfall totals of 4 to 8 with localized higher amounts possible across portions of southeast Louisiana into far southern Mississippi. Storm total rainfall accumulations of 10 to 18 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 24 inches is expected. Heavy rain combined with storm surge has resulted in catastrophic impacts along the southeast coast of Louisiana with life-threatening flash flooding and significant riverine flooding continuing farther inland.”