Hurricane Ida hits Louisiana, causing two deaths, floods and power outages

Flooding across large parts of Louisiana has left those who stayed in their homes trapped in them, ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy reports

Scores of people trapped by floodwaters in Louisiana, US, are pleading to be rescued, while Hurricane Ida caused shambles by knocking out power from many homes.

Hurricane Ida, which blasted ashore the Louisiana coast as one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the US, has weakened into a tropical storm overnight. But the danger is far from over as it pushed inland over Mississippi with torrential rain and strong winds.

Rescue workers in Louisiana have set out in hundreds of boats and helicopters to reach people trapped by floodwaters.

Aerial footage shows the damage Hurricane Ida has caused to Louisiana

And utility crews are working to restore power in the state amid the sweltering heat.

Ida has been blamed for at least two deaths. A person was found dead following a report of a fallen tree on a home in Prairieville, a suburb of state capital Baton Rouge, the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook.

The second person is believed to be a man who drowned trying to drive his car through a flood in New Orleans.

Police look through debris after a building collapsed from the effects of Hurricane Ida in New Orleans Credit: AP/Eric Gay

More than one million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi, including all of New Orleans, were left without power as Ida, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the U.S. mainland, pushed through on Sunday.

The damage was so extensive that officials warned it could be weeks before the power grid was repaired.

Extreme winds tear through buildings and power lines in Louisiana

Ida hit on the same date Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi 16 years earlier, coming ashore about 45 miles (72 kilometres) west of where Category 3 Katrina first struck land.

Ida’s 150 mph (230 kph) winds tied it for the fifth-strongest hurricane to ever hit the mainland US.

It dropped hours later to a Category 1 storm with maximum winds of 95 mph (155 kph) as it crawled inland, its eye about 45 miles (70 kilometres) northwest of New Orleans.

Significant flooding was reported late on Sunday night in LaPlace, a community adjacent to Lake Pontchartrain, meteorologists in New Orleans said. Many people took to social media, pleading for boat rescues as the water rose.

An abandoned vehicle is half submerged in a ditch next to a near flooded highway in Bay Saint Louis Credit: AP/Steve Helber

The rising ocean swamped the barrier island of Grand Isle as landfall came just to the west at Port Fourchon. Ida made a second landfall about two hours later near Galliano.

The hurricane was churning through the far southern Louisiana wetlands, with the more than 2 million people living in and around New Orleans and Baton Rouge under threat.

Governor John Bel Edwards told The Associated Press: “This is going to be much stronger than we usually see and, quite frankly, if you had to draw up the worst possible path for a hurricane in Louisiana, it would be something very, very close to what we’re seeing.”

People in Louisiana woke up to a monster storm after Ida’s top winds grew by 45 mph (72 kph) in five hours as the hurricane moved through some of the warmest ocean water in the world in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

The entire city of New Orleans was without power late on Sunday, according to city officials.

Keith Clark brings rope to help tie down a houseboat before he evacuates Credit: Sophia Germer/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP

The city’s power supplier — Entergy — confirmed that the only power in the city was coming from generators, the city’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness said on Twitter.

The message included a screen shot that cited “catastrophic transmission damage” for the power failure.

The city relies on Entergy for backup power for the pumps that remove storm water from city streets. Rain from Ida is expected to test that pump system.

More than 1 million customers were without power in Louisiana, and over 40,000 were in the dark in Mississippi, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks outages nationwide.

Interstate 10 near Slidell, Louisiana Credit: Scott Threlkeld/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP

In New Orleans, wind tore at awnings and caused buildings to sway and water to spill out of Lake Ponchartrain.

The Coast Guard office in New Orleans received more than a dozen reports of breakaway barges, said Petty Officer Gabriel Wisdom.

US Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Ricky Boyette said engineers detected a “negative flow” on the Mississippi River as a result of the storm surge.

Officials said Ida’s swift intensification from a few thunderstorms to a massive hurricane in just three days left no time to organise a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans’ 390,000 residents.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

The region getting Ida’s worst includes petrochemical sites and major ports, which could sustain significant damage.

It is also an area that is already reeling from a resurgence of Covid-19 infections due to low vaccination rates and the highly contagious delta variant.

New Orleans hospitals planned to ride out the storm with their beds nearly full, as similarly stressed hospitals elsewhere had little room for evacuated patients. And shelters for those fleeing their homes carried an added risk of becoming flashpoints for new infections.

Forecasters warned winds stronger than 115 mph (185 kph) threatened Houma, a city of 33,000 that supports oil platforms in the Gulf.

Jones Park in Gulfport, Mississippi, was flooded by Hurricane Ida’s storm surge Credit: Justin Mitchell/The Sun Herald/AP

The hurricane was also threatening neighbouring Mississippi, where Katrina demolished oceanfront homes.

Comparisons to the August 29, 2005 landfall of Katrina weighed heavily on residents bracing for Ida.

Katrina was blamed for 1,800 deaths as it caused levee breaches and catastrophic flooding in New Orleans.

President Joe Biden approved emergency declarations for Louisiana and Mississippi ahead of Ida’s arrival. He said on Sunday the country was praying for the best for Louisiana and would put its “full might behind the rescue and recovery” effort once the storm passes.