Ida escalates into Category 4 hurricane, Louisiana prepares for landfall
hurricane Ida was due to make landfall in the United States on Sunday as an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm that could submerge much of Louisiana’s coastline underwater as the state grapples with a COVID-19 outbreak already taxing hospitals.
The storm intensified faster than authorities predicted on Saturday, as Gulf Coast residents were evacuated and businesses closed.
Southern Louisiana is still reeling from the effects of hurricane Laura for a year. The state also has the third highest incidence of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the United States over the past seven days.
Early Sunday Ida had quickly stepped up and was a Category 4 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, the National hurricane Center (NHC) said. It was located about 100 miles (160 km) south of the mouth of the Mississippi River, carrying sustained winds of 130 mph (215 km / h).
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said on Saturday that Ida’s winds would be strong and spread over an area of 300 miles, and could be the state’s worst direct blow since the 1850s.
Louisiana was also devastated 16 years ago this week by hurricane Katrina, who killed more than 1,800 people.
The state has no plans to evacuate hospitals now strained by an influx of COVID-19 patients, Edwards said.
“The implications of a Category 4 storm when hospitals are full is beyond what we normally envision,” Edwards said at a press conference on Saturday afternoon.
As of Friday, more than 3,400 new infections were reported and about 2,700 people are hospitalized with the virus.
“We’ve spoken to hospitals to make sure their generators are working, that they have a lot more water on hand than normal, that they have PPE on hand,” Edwards said.
Authorities ordered widespread evacuations from low-lying and coastal areas, blocking highways and causing some gas stations to dry up as residents and vacationers fled the seashore.
“This is a powerful and dangerous storm – it’s moving faster than we imagined, so we have a little less time to prepare,” said Dr Joseph Kanter, chief medical officer of Louisiana. “There’s a lot of COVID out there – there’s a lot of risk there. “
EXPECTED POWER FAILURES
The public services provided additional teams and equipment to deal with the expected power losses. President Joe Biden said he had coordinated with the electric utilities and that 500 federal emergency response officers were in Texas and Louisiana responding to the storm.
U.S. energy companies have cut offshore oil production by 91% and gasoline refiners have shut down factories in Louisiana because of the storm. Regional fuel prices have increased in anticipation of production losses and increased demand due to evacuations.
Coastal and inland oil refineries began to cut production due to the storm. Phillips 66 closed its Alliance plant on the coast at Belle Chasse, while Exxon Mobil Corp cut production at its refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Saturday.
Jean Paul Bourg, 39, was planning to weather the storm in Morgan City, about 70 miles west of New Orleans. His wife’s brother was recently released from hospital after contracting COVID-19 and obtained a generator to ensure access to oxygen if needed.
“You can’t necessarily cram in with family members during COVID,” said Bourg, after chopping down trees and laying plywood on his house. “More people than you might think are sticking around. “