The hurricane caused extensive material damage, but the human toll remains low and measures taken after 2005 have been effective.
Sixteen years after Katrina, a new, even more powerful hurricane swept through Louisiana on Sunday. But fortunately, it did not lead to a disaster of the same magnitude. Hurricane Ida was however one of the most violent to have ever been recorded on the American coasts: with winds of 240 km / h when it began Sunday shortly before noon (7:00 p.m. French time) to hit the coasts of this southern state of the United States, it was classified in category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, which has 5. Katrina, which had broken in 2005 the dikes protecting New Orleans and caused the flooding of the city, was only category 3.
The violence of Hurricane Ida was such that the waters of the Mississippi rose for a few hours at the mouth of the river. New Orleans was swept by winds of rare intensity. The hurricane destroyed a huge electrical installation in the parish of Jefferson, and the wires fell into the Mississippi, causing widespread blackouts and interrupting river traffic.
Rain and rising seawater in the swamps and bayous south of New Orleans have also isolated hundreds of homes. On social media, people stuck in their attics or on their roofs were asking for help. Rescue operations began on Monday, mobilizing hundreds of boats and helicopters to rescue those stranded by the rising waters, and utilities are working to restore power to much of the state.
After making landfall on Sunday near Port Fourchon, south of New Orleans, with winds blowing over 200 km / h, Ida has since moved north and up the Mississippi. The hurricane weakened on Monday to be downgraded to a tropical storm.
If the material damage is considerable, the human toll has so far remained miraculously low. One person was killed by a fall from a tree outside of Baton Rouge. The roads being impassable and the telephone network being interrupted in places, the total number of victims is however not yet known. The measures taken since Katrina against the floods appear to have been effective. Extensive flooding occurred in LaPlace, a community on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, and the island of Grand Isle was submerged, but the system of protection of dikes, canals and levees built by the engineers of the United States Army for a budget estimated at 14.5 billion dollars, enabled New Orleans to escape another catastrophe. In 2005, the passage of Katrina had resulted in the rupture of the dikes and the flooding of part of the city: 1,833 people had died in the disaster, and the damage had been evaluated at 100 billion dollars.
Towards other hurricanes?
“Overall, all our dikes have held up very well”, said Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. “But the storm, the rain and the wind had devastating effects. Our water supply systems are down, and we have massive property damage. There is no doubt that the coming days and weeks are going to be extremely difficult for our State and that many, many people will be tested ”, added the governor.
The Louisiana National Guard has mobilized 4,900 reservists, and dozens of boats and helicopters. US federal authorities have also dispatched aid, including stocks of food, water and generators. President Joe Biden announced on Saturday that Fema, the federal agency in charge of emergency situations, was deploying 500 of its personnel to reinforce Texas and Louisiana, in addition to the 2,000 already on site to deal with the Covid pandemic , particularly virulent in this state in the southern United States.
The hurricane season, which runs from June to November, peaks in late August and sometime in September, and US weather services do not rule out the appearance of other hurricanes.