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Aug. 29 Hurricane Ida news: Levee failure causes imminent threat

The center of Ida made landfall in Port Fourchon, Louisiana, on Sunday around noon local time, according to the National Hurricane Center.
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Hurricane Ida made landfall on the coast of Louisiana Sunday as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, but was downgraded to a tropical storm early Monday. It's the storm's slow movement, sustained power and direction that are of ongoing concern.

Ida has slowed considerably but continues to draw energy from its own storm surge as well as the moisture of the area. The combination is hitting New Orleans with heavy rains in addition to strong winds, overpowering some levees and leaving more than one million people without power throughout Louisiana.

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Tulane University moves students out of residence hall near construction crane

Tulane University moved students out of some residence halls that were near a construction crane out of "an abundance of caution," the school's President Michael A. Fitts said in an email to students. 

"Students living by Irby, Phelps, Paterson, and Wall residence halls have been relocated to The Commons/LBC complex as a precaution since these residence halls are near the crane tower off McAlister Way," Fitts said in the email. "The crane is built to withstand winds far above what we are expecting but, out of an overabundance of caution, we moved students away from the construction site."

Hurricane Ida made landfall on Sunday afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph.

Fitts also wrote that, although the storm's path had deviated from what was anticipated, the school had taken precautions and all residence halls had been secured and supplied with back-up emergency power.

Three days worth of food was distributed to on- and off-campus students ahead of the hurricane, Fitts said. Those who felt unsafe off campus were given shelter on campus, the email stated.

"We are fully staffed at the Hyatt and Jung hotels for students who are in isolation there and they are being provided with meals," the email read.

More than 145,500 customers without power in New Orleans

Entergy New Orleans reported that more than 145,500 customers are without power shortly after Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana. That number appears to be rising.

During a press conference Sunday afternoon, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell acknowledged the widespread power outages but urged residents to stay home. 

The update from Entergy New Orleans, an electric and natural gas utility and former mass transit provider that was based in New Orleans, Louisiana, was posted at 1:40 p.m. ET. 

Photo: Residents travel on a jet ski as Ida storm surge floods Mississippi town

A local resident on a jet ski tows a canoe to a flooded house as the outer bands of Hurricane Ida arrive on Sunday in Bay Saint Louis, Miss.Steve Helber / AP

'There’s nobody coming right now': New Orleans mayor, other officials warn residents to stay home

During a press conference Sunday afternoon, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell told residents that now is the time to hunker down and stay home just ahead of Hurricane Ida's landfall just before noon local time. 

"You are not to come out until you receive more information from the city of New Orleans," Cantrell said during a press conference on Sunday afternoon. "Now is the time that we have been preparing for and even waiting for as it relates to Hurricane Ida."

Collin Arnold, director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, echoed the mayor, warning residents that emergency services wouldn't be able to reach them until Monday. 

"You need to stay inside until tomorrow. We’ll look at this during the first light of day," Arnold said. "There’s nobody coming right now. You need to stay inside."

Officials at the news conference warned that residents who didn't evacuate but had changed their mind Sunday afternoon would be out of luck, and that they should not call the police. 

"As Ida moves closer we will see sustained winds of 75 mph. These are life-threatening winds. You absolutely need to remain indoors," Arnold said. 

Cantrell also urged residents to conserve water as the storm moved in and acknowledged that some residents had begun losing power.  

Officials also noted that the city is in a different place than it was 16 years ago when Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans, noting that $14 billion had been invested in the levee system. The levees are not a concern at this moment, officials said. 

"You have everything that you need," Cantrell said. "We will get through this together."

Baton Rouge mayor says residents should shelter in their homes

The mayor of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said her city is working to get "out front" of Hurricane Ida, with crews and parish officials spending much of the last 72 hours making emergency preparations.

In an interview with NBC News, Sharon Weston Broome advised residents to take shelter in their homes rather than evacuating, but she called on people to "do what they have to do."

"We are not thinking that we will have a consistent deluge that takes place," Broome said. "But nevertheless, it's incumbent upon us to prepare for whatever."

Hurricane Ida has made landfall

Hurricane Ida made landfall near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, around 12:55 p.m. ET Sunday, with maximum sustained winds estimated to be 150 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

In an all-caps message at the top of the latest advisory, the hurricane center called Ida, a Category 4 storm, "EXTREMELY DANGEROUS."

Ida was about 15 miles southwest of Grand Isle, Louisiana, and about 45 miles southeast of Houma, Louisiana, according to the NHC.

Electric company warns hard-hit customers could lose power for weeks

Entergy, an energy company that provides electricity to millions of customers in the Deep South, warned Sunday afternoon that Ida could knock out power systems for weeks.

In a statement, the company said customers in the "direct path" of a Category 4 hurricane such as Ida "can experience outages up to three weeks." The statement went on to say that while 90 percent of customers will have their power restored sooner, "customers in the hardest-hit areas should plan for the possibility of experiencing extended power outages."

Entergy insisted it was thoroughly prepared to deal with the aftermath of the storm, with a "workforce of over 7,000 ready ready to restore service." The company added that it anticipated mobilizing a storm team of at least 16,000 workers.

'Just hope for the best'

Mississippi Gulf Coast could see storm surge; emergency declaration approved

JACKSON, Miss. — Almost a third of Mississippi’s counties are now eligible for reimbursement from the federal government for funds spent in preparation for Hurricane Ida, according to a statement on Sunday from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

The approved pre-disaster Emergency Measures declaration covers 24 counties and the state's only federally recognized Native American tribe, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

Gov. Tate Reeves warned during a Saturday storm briefing that the Mississippi Gulf Coast could see up to 11 feet of storm surge in some areas. Power outages throughout the state are also expected.

Climbing admissions in recent weeks of patients seriously ill from Covid-19 have overwhelmed hospitals in Mississippi's coastal counties. Health care leaders are bracing for the loss of electricity by stocking up on supplies with emergency generators at the ready.

"Access to care is a national issue, but a hurricane makes it even worse," Randall Cobb, the Singing River Health System's director of facilities and support, said in an interview with Mississippi Today. "Hospitals are at capacity. In our emergency departments, there are multiple-hour wait times."

Three hours north, several school systems in central Mississippi have already canceled classes for Monday. The Jackson Public School District and Madison County Schools will be closed tomorrow.

Zello is popular during disasters. But it doesn't work without cell service, internet

When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in 2017, people on the ground used Zello — a messaging app that has been compared to a walkie-talkie — to communicate without cell phone numbers. The popularity of Zello in the aftermath of Harvey and other natural disasters has created the perception that the app is a reliable alternative to phone calls or text messages in the event of a power outage.

But as the makers of the app have clarified in the past, Zello does not work without cellular data service or an internet connection on your phone. In other words, people along the Gulf Coast will not be able to use Zello to communicate if Ida knocks out networks, limiting access to cellular data and WiFi.

Zello's official Twitter account has previously attempted to clear up the confusion, writing in 2017 that there was "massive misinformation among users" about the app's capabilities.

"There has been some misinformation about Zello requirements. Please inform others: Zello REQUIRES Internet using either WiFi or cellular data network of at least 2G," Zello tweeted at the time.

Hurricane Ida nears Louisiana coast

The northern eyewall of Hurricane Ida was moving onshore along the coast of southeastern Louisiana with a sustained wind of 89 mph and and a wind gust of 104 mph as of 12 p.m. ET, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm was about 25 miles south-southwest of Grand Isle, Louisiana, and about 60 miles southeast of Houma, Louisiana, the NHC said in its latest advisory.