Ida loses punch, levees hold, but Louisiana expects more rain and flooding

By Devika Krishna Kumar

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) -Ida lost some of its punch over southwestern Mississippi on Monday after making landfall in Louisiana as one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the region, but it could still trigger heavy flooding, the National Hurricane Center said.

Ida, the first major hurricane to strike the United States this year, made landfall around noon on Sunday as a Category 4 storm over Port Fourchon, a hub of the Gulf’s offshore oil industry, packing sustained winds of up to 150 miles per hour (240 km per hour).

Although weakened to a tropical storm, heavy downpours could bring life-threatening flooding, the NHC said.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Deanne Criswell said the full impact of the storm would become clear later in the day.

“We’re hearing about widespread structural damage,” Criswell said in an interview with CNN. “I don’t think there could have been a worse path for this storm. It’s going to have some significant impacts.”

Federal levees installed to reduce the risk of flooding appeared to have held, according to preliminary reports.

“Daylight will bring horrific images as the damage is assessed. More than 20,000 linemen will work to restore the deeply damaged power lines,” Shauna Sanford, communications director for Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards wrote in a tweet.

“The good news: no federal levee failed or was overtopped.”

Kevin Lepine, president of Plaquemines Parish, home to 23,000 residents and one of Louisiana’s southern most communities, said he had had little sleep overnight as he braced for first light and the chance to go and assess the damage.

“We’re worried about the levees down the road,” he said.

On Sunday night, the sheriff’s office in Ascension Parish reported the first known U.S. fatality from the storm, a 60-year-old man killed by a tree falling on his home near Baton Rouge, the state capital.

President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in the state, ordering federal assistance to bolster recovery efforts in more than two dozen storm-stricken parishes.

Ida crashed ashore as Louisiana was already reeling from a resurgence of COVID-19 infections that has strained the state’s healthcare system, with an estimated 2,450 COVID-19 patients hospitalized statewide, many in intensive care units.

Its arrival came 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina, one of the most catastrophic and deadly U.S. storms on record, struck the Gulf Coast, and about a year after the last Category 4 hurricane, Laura, battered Louisiana.

A loss of generator power at the Thibodaux Regional Health System hospital in Lafourche Parish, southwest of New Orleans, forced medical workers to manually assist respirator patients with breathing while they were moved to another floor, the state Health Department confirmed to Reuters.

Within 12 hours of landfall, Ida had plowed a destructive path that submerged much of the state’s coastline under several feet of surf, with flash flooding reported by the National Hurricane Center across southeastern Louisiana.

Nearly all offshore Gulf oil production was suspended in advance of the storm, and major ports along the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts were closed to shipping.


Power was knocked out Sunday night to the entire New Orleans metropolitan area following the failure of all eight transmission lines that deliver electricity to the city, the utility company Entergy Louisiana reported.

One transmission tower collapsed into the Mississippi River, the Jefferson Parish Emergency Management Department said.

More than 1 million Louisiana homes and businesses in all were without electricity early on Monday, as well as some 120,000 in Mississippi, according to the tracking site Poweroutage.US.

Residents of the most vulnerable coastal areas were ordered to evacuate days ahead of the storm. Those riding out the storm in their homes in New Orleans braced for the toughest test yet of major upgrades to a levee system constructed following devastating floods in 2005 from Katrina, a hurricane that claimed some 1,800 lives.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the newly reinforced New Orleans levees were expected to hold, though they said they said the flood walls could be overtopped in some places.

Hundreds of miles of new levees were built around New Orleans after flooding from Katrina inundated much of the low-lying city, especially historically Black neighborhoods.

Inundation from Ida’s storm surge – high surf driven by the hurricane’s winds – was reported to be exceeding predicted levels of 6 feet (1.8 m) along parts of the coast. Videos posted on social media showed storm surge flooding had transformed sections of Highway 90 along the Louisiana and Mississippi coast into a choppy river.

(Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New Orleans; Additional reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault and Jonathan Allen in New York, Erwin Seba in Houston, Rich McKay in Atlanta, Laura Sanicola, Linda So and Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington, Liz Hampton in Denver, and Arpan Varghese, Kanishka Singh, Bhargav Acharya and Nakul Iyer in Bengaluru; Writing by Steve Gorman and Maria Caspani; Editing by Richard Pullin and Nick Macfie)

New Orleans renters face toxic mix of crumbling homes, weak rights, eviction worries

By Kathleen Flynn and Makini Brice

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – Fifteen years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and triggered a mass exodus, the Crescent City is bracing for new storms as it faces an entirely different crisis – the beginning of a possible wave of evictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The final eviction protections from the coronavirus relief bill, dubbed the CARES Act, expire nationwide on Aug. 24. Millions of renters around the country are worried, and evictions typically hit Black communities hardest. But those in New Orleans face a particularly toxic combination of steep housing costs, low incomes, weak tenant rights, and housing stock that is crumbling and decrepit.

New Orleans was battered early by the coronavirus, and as tourism shut, nearly one in five residents were put out of work in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As the city slowly tries to reopen, that dropped to 12.9% in June, but many people are still trying to catch up to lost coronavirus income, advocates say. Up to 56% of Louisiana’s renters are now at risk of eviction, the Aspen Institute calculates, the second-highest percentage of at-risk renters in the country after Mississippi.

Potentially making matters worse, Tropical Storm Marco and Tropical Storm Laura are bearing down on the Gulf of Mexico, and threaten to flood the city again.


After flooding from Hurricane Katrina damaged 70% of the city’s housing stock in August 15 years ago, tens of thousands of New Orleans buildings stood blighted for years. Large public housing buildings were demolished, over residents’ protests, and replaced with mixed-income housing that pushed many apartment units out of reach for the city’s poor.

According to the Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative, a housing rights organization, New Orleans rents have increased by 50% since 2000, while wages have only risen by 2%.

More than half of the city’s 390,000 residents are renters, and of those 61% are considered cost-burdened, paying more than a third of their income on rent, Jane Place calculates.

“People are paying more rent now than they’ve ever paid in their lives,” said Frank Southall, lead organizer at Jane Place. “It’s not uncommon to never see a one-bedroom apartment that’s in good condition for less than $1,200 in a city where the area median income for a single mother with a child (is) $25,000.”


Amid the pandemic, housing advocates say some landlords are taking advantage of renters’ vulnerable position.

“We are seeing landlords, that if you owe them money right now, they’re refusing to make necessary repairs that they’re legally required to do,” said Amanda Golob, a housing lawyer for Southeast Louisiana Legal Services.

De Borah Wells, a 49-year-old chef who worked at the landmark Creole restaurant Commander’s Palace before being furloughed in March, said her landlord threatened to evict her after she spoke up about her landlord’s treatment of tenants and complained about the repairs her home needed, including the collapse of her kitchen ceiling in June.

“I just wanted something decent. I don’t feel like a ceiling is that unreasonable!” said Wells, who negotiated with her landlord over the August rent because of the needed repairs but the deal fell through, according to correspondence between her and her lawyer. “I can see outside from my kitchen, inside.”

Wells took her landlord to court. On Friday, the landlord let her out of her lease, she said. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

In Louisiana, landlords only need to give five days’ notice before filing eviction notices, which they can do if payment is even one day late.

And, though landlords are supposed to make repairs to keep homes inhabitable, renters cannot withhold rent until they are made, leaving them with little recourse.

“The hard thing is, especially with low-income folks, it is difficult to move,” Golob said, citing unreturned deposits or first month’s rent and particularly COVID-19’s impact on rental searches. “Some people are staying in pretty terrible conditions because it is better than sleeping in their car.”

Brandie Barrow, a 25-year-old cook and mother of two, said she was able to stay current on her rent despite the restaurant where she works cutting her hours during the pandemic.

Still, after she complained last week of mold, maggots and mildew she found in her daughters’ closet, she said her apartment complex gave her 30 days to move out. Her landlord did not respond to requests for comment left by voicemail.

“How inhumane. Why should I have to pay for somewhere that I’m not happy?” Barrow said.

Tammy Esponge, the executive director of the Apartment Association of Greater New Orleans, an association of rental housing owners, said she thought worries about mass evictions were overblown.

The group had been encouraging landlords to work with residents to develop payment plans. So far, in Louisiana, the eviction rate was 5%, she said, though she acknowledged it was higher for some individual properties.

“Landlords don’t want to evict. They lose money,” said Esponge.

Nonetheless, Wells, who moved into her house last September, said she is thinking about leaving the city altogether. “Worse case I can go back home to Chicago where my parents and boyfriend are,” she said.

(Reporting by Makini Brice in Washington and Kathleen Flynn in New Orleans; Editing by Heather Timmons and Lisa Shumaker)

‘Feed the rescue workers’: Katrina survivors offer tips to Houston

FILE PHOTO: Texas National Guardsmen work alongside first responders to rescue local citizens from severe flooding in Cypress Creek, Houston, U.S. August 28, 2017. U.S. Army National Guard/Capt. Martha Nigrelle/Handout via REUTERS

By Emily Flitter

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – Adrian Schwing knows how grueling it can be to survive the aftermath of a major storm: He and his family of five spent seven months living in a single bedroom offered by a friend after their home in New Orleans was destroyed more than a decade ago by Hurricane Katrina.

He now has advice for the people of Houston as they emerge from days of record rainfall brought by powerful storm Harvey that overwhelmed nearly a fifth of the city and forced tens of thousands to flee to shelters.

“They have to open up their hearts to their friends and family,” said Schwing, 63.

Other survivors of the storm that ravaged New Orleans in 2005, killing more than 1,800 people, had more practical suggestions for storm-weary Texans, like getting a quick start on purchasing building materials once the waters recede.

“Sheetrock and door frames sell out the fastest,” said Anthony Puglia Jr., 37, who, along with his wife and their newborn baby, spent weeks after Katrina with relatives, only to return to face a scramble for building supplies.

“They might also want to start getting contracts for roofers,” Puglia said.

Harvey struck Texas as a hurricane late on Friday, tearing off roofs and snapping utility poles with winds of 130 miles per hour (210 km per hour), making it the strongest storm to hit the state since 1961.

It weakened quickly to a tropical storm but lingered over the Houston area for days, dumping more than 50 inches (130 cm)of rain in some sections, submerging thousands of homes and killing at least 17 people. On Wednesday, it was lumbering east toward Louisiana, where it continues to threaten areas with flooding.



Puglia, who operates the family’s sporting goods store in Metairie, Louisiana, chatted on Tuesday with a customer, Trent Gray, 49, who had also survived Katrina.

“When it comes to insurance, sign up for everything you can, even if you don’t need it,” Gray said.

Gray said Katrina had done minimal damage to his house, but his home insurance provider gave him money to live while he was away. He said a government insurance program had also helped him install hurricane shutters to protect against future storms.

Puglia said giving his name to agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross also helped him get baby formula from distribution centers.

FEMA said on Wednesday that 195,000 people had registered for federal assistance so far as a result of Harvey.

Puglia said several of his neighbors had come into his store earlier in the day to get supplies – including all 25 of the life jackets he had in stock – before heading to Houston with boats to help with rescue efforts.

He said that during Katrina he and his relatives had fed volunteers with meat they had stored in a freezer that had lost power due to the storm – handing out free meals of cooked trout, duck, deer and even squirrel.

“Feed the rescue workers,” Puglia advised.


(Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Jonathan Oatis)


Thousands still in shelters after record Louisiana floods

Louisiana Floods

By Sam Karlin

BATON ROUGE, La. (Reuters) – More than 3,000 Louisiana residents were still in emergency shelters as record flood waters receded on Monday, while government officials weighed options for temporary housing after the state’s worst disaster since Hurricane Katrina.

About 60,600 homes have been reported damaged or destroyed in flooding that swept through 20 parishes, or counties, in the southern part of the state after torrential rains earlier this month.

With swollen rivers, streams and bayous returning to normal, many people were going back to their homes and businesses, and state offices had reopened.

But the governor’s office said 3,075 residents were still living in shelters as of Monday, a day before President Barack Obama is due to tour the stricken area.

The extent of the damage prompted the Federal Emergency Management Agency to extend a grace period to renew lapsed flood insurance policies for parts of Louisiana for the first time since Katrina in 2005.

“We’ve seen major destruction to communities across the state,” Roy Wright, deputy associate administrator for FEMA’s Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, said in a statement about the extension.

Residents have already filed more than 25,600 flood insurance claims. But only 42 percent of Louisiana homes in high-risk areas had flood insurance, while only 12.5 percent of homeowners in low and moderate-risk zones were covered, according to FEMA estimates.

The agency has also already received some 110,500 applications for individual assistance, and $74 million in individual grants has been paid out.

“When it comes to a home that is lost, FEMA money is not designed to replace insurance or make people whole again,” said FEMA spokesman Rafael Lemaitre. “It’s a life vest, not a life boat.”

So far, the number of people affected by the floods pales in comparison with the nearly 74,000 families forced out of homes after Katrina and the 11,000 displaced after Hurricane Rita, a storm that came a few weeks later in 2005.

In 2005, FEMA faced widespread criticism for what many considered a slow, inept response. But the agency appears to have benefited from experience.

“From the vantage point of a citizen, what we see is a much more coordinated state, federal and local partnership on the response,” said Adam Knapp, head of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and a former deputy director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority after Katrina.

“That is a perhaps a hard-fought, hard-won experience for us since Katrina – when we learned how important it is to be coordinated in the immediate response.”

FEMA has formed a task force to identify temporary housing options for the thousands displaced by the floods, Lemaitre said. That may include manufactured housing units that meet or exceed government certifications, he said.

FEMA paid $6.6 billion to about 1.07 million households and individuals in the Gulf states after Katrina, $5.3 billion of which went to Louisiana alone.

In response to this month’s flooding, FEMA has issued more than $15 million in advanced flood insurance payments to Louisianans who sustained damages, the agency said in a statement on Monday.

(Additional reporting and writing by Chris Prentice in New York; editing by Frank McGurty and Tom Brown)

Typhoon Soudelor Could Strike with Same Force as Hurricane Katrina

Forecasters are reporting the Typhoon Soudelor, which has weakened from earlier this week when it became the strongest storm of the year, could strike Taiwan head-on with the same level of force as 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

“It is barreling down on Taiwan and winds will strengthen to around 130 mph by the time it hits at some point [Friday] afternoon U.S. time,” Weather Channel forecaster Michael Palmer told NBC. “There will undoubtedly be some significant damage, there will be some massive waves and flash flooding.”

The storm is tracking over the center of the country and about 7 million people in capital city Taipei’s metropolitan area could be impacted by the storm.

The storm has already killed one person.  An 8-year-old girl was confirmed dead after being swept out to sea according to Taiwan’s National Fire Agency.  Another child is missing and feared dead in the incident that was survived by a 38-year-old woman and another child.

Taiwanese authorities forced the evacuations of over 600 residents along coastal areas.  Flights to the island have been cancelled and all schools and public offices and facilities will be closed.

The storm is drawing comparisons to 2009’s Typhoon Morakot that killed 700 people and caused over $3 billion in damage.

Chinese officials have started evacuations from the coastal province of Fujian where the storm is expected to hit after crossing over Taiwan.

I Am Somebody!

I wondered why somebody didn’t do something. Then I realized, I am somebody. ~Author Unknown

I’ve heard so many people say that this task of getting prepared for disasters is just too much for them. Some have no support or backing whatsoever from anyone in their family, and consider it a daunting task to go it alone. Some have made a gallant start and then run into resistance by financial circumstances or other situations beyond their control. Some wouldn’t be caught dead (pun unintended) prepping, afraid that others would think they were really “out there.” And others have good intentions to do it someday.

But recently, those who have never been preppers before are starting to get prepared now. There’s something going on in people’s hearts that tells them it’s time and no more procrastinating!   Continue reading

Hurricane Isaac Strikes New Orleans Exactly Seven Years After Katrina

On the seventh anniversary of the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina, the less powerful Hurricane Isaac is hitting New Orleans. However, Isaac has already breached one levee in the city causing flooding of hundreds of homes.

The storm currently is maintaining sustained winds of 80 miles per hour.

Plaquemines Parish spokeswoman Caitlin Campbell said water is currently running over an 18-mile stretch of levee. The storm made landfall in their Parish and then went back out to sea before touching down further west to hit the city a second time. Continue reading