At its height over the last 48 hours, nearly two million people in New Orleans and Louisiana were without power or experiencing power outages, having been battered by the 150mph monster called Hurricane Ida, seen as the most powerful ever storm to hit Louisiana.
As of today, over a million customers are still without power, and the death toll stands at four, but is expected to rise as the waters recede.
Ida certainly battered the region, with the National Hurricane center warning over the weekend of “life threatening” seven foot storm surge and “catastrophic wind damage”.
Although New Orleans suffered blackouts, the good news was the levees held, many built or repaired after Hurricane Katrina. But the bad news was that roofs were blown off buildings, and powerlines were downed, after what was described as “catastrophic transmission damage.”
Buildings also collapsed and were destroyed and there was widespread flash flooding, as graphic pictures on Twitter revealed.
This is why I took before photos. Building got wiped out by #Ida #NOLA pic.twitter.com/z1sLf3I4Q2
— Joel Franco (@OfficialJoelF) August 30, 2021
Catastrophic damage was also reported in Louisiana, but with large parts of the state still unreachable, the extent of the damage remains unclear. What we do know is that entire towns were cut off by flood waters.
In nearby Mississippi, a bridge collapsed killing two people after the torrential rainfall. Flooding could also hit portions of the Tennessee and Ohio.
First Nations communities are also affected:
Our hearts and prayers go out to the United Houma Nation. The Nation suffered major devastation from Hurricane Ida. “I am very heartbroken as chief of the United Houma Nation to see the pain my people are going through" https://t.co/muSyREOxai pic.twitter.com/0TAfAV5dot
— Association on American Indian Affairs (@IndianAffairs) August 31, 2021
Once again, our warming world is to blame for the sheer, power and size of the storm. Earlier this month, when the latest IPCC’s report was published, the scientists warned that we face more hurricanes as warming air and warming water feeds these types of super storms.
For each degree Celsius the air warms, it is able to hold 7 percent more moisture. And what we know is Ida gained power and strength and size from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
As the Washington Post pointed out yesterday: “From its birth, the storm was destined to become a monster. It formed from air that was hot, moist, and thick with clouds. It incubated in the sultry Gulf of Mexico, drawing power from water that was unusually warm.”
One scientist quoted by the paper likened the temperature of the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico to a “bathtub” and “like stepping on the accelerator,” for the storm.
Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies the physics of hurricanes and their connection to the climate, told the paper. “This is exactly the kind of thing we’re going to have to get used to as the planet warms.”
A columnist for the New York Times added that “Hurricane Ida offers a glimpse of the dystopia that’s coming for all of us.”
Indeed, for those residents who survived the storm, searing heat is now forecast in the next few days and weeks, made all the more unbearable by the power outages, which may not be fixed for a month.
The solutions really are simple. Our warming weather is making our weather more extreme. To stop another devastating hurricane such as Ida, it is yet another reason to demand an urgent just transition to renewable energy. And part of that transition means no more new oil and gas drilling, either.