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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.
Louisiana hospital scrambles to keep patients breathing after generator failure
Doctors and nurses at a Louisiana hospital directly in the path of Hurricane Ida were forced to manually pump air into the lungs of patients after a generator failed and the ventilators stopped working in an intensive care unit, the state health department confirmed Sunday night.
The stricken patients were moved to another floor of Thibodaux Regional Health System, said Mindy Faciane, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Department of Health said.
It wasn’t immediately clear how many patients were being relocated, but State Rep. Jerome Zeringue (R-Houma) told the local newspaper he’d been in touch with a doctor who reported the generator failure and who described the situation as “Katrinaesque.”
Two dozen Louisiana hospitals had to be evacuated during Hurricane Katrina after they lost power, water and sewage services.
Christina Stephens, a spokesperson for Gov. John Bel Edwards, said the facility “had not lost all critical power.” She said some patients were moved to another part of the facility and the state health department was working with the hospital.
Gov. Edwards requests a major disaster declaration
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards requested a presidential major disaster declaration on Sunday evening as Hurricane Ida ravaged the state, according to a release put out by the governor's office.
The release cited the thousands of people in Louisiana without power following the storm's impact as well as storm surge and winds, which were still thrashing parts of the state Sunday evening and expected to impact areas farther inland into Monday.
“Hurricane Ida is one of the strongest storms to ever hit Louisiana ... This major disaster declaration will help Louisiana better respond to this crisis and protect the health and safety of our people, and I hope the White House will act quickly so we can begin getting additional aid and assistance to our people,” Edwards said.
President Joe Biden had already granted a federal declaration of emergency prior to the storm's arrival, but the major disaster declaration will allow the state to access additional assistance.
The request includes individual assistance as well as critical needs assistance for parishes dealing with the worst of the storm's impact. The governor's office anticipates there will be many residents who are displaced for an extended period of time due to the storm. Edwards has also asked for help with debris removal and repairing infrastructure damage.
Ida is going strong and slow. That's bad news.
It’s been six hours since landfall, and Ida remains a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph.
Despite making landfall, Ida has maintained much of its intensity because of the warm and saturated ground of the marshy wetlands. The storm is feeding off the bayous and behaving as if it’s still over water.
While it hasn’t weakened much, it has slowed down to a crawl and made a turn to the north. This means the eyewall with the core of the strongest winds could edge closer to downtown New Orleans, bringing the risk for 100 mph winds or higher.
With the strongest winds of Ida now threatening the New Orleans metro, meteorologists caution to never evacuate vertically into high rise buildings. Wind increases with height, so the speeds atop a 30-story building, for example, could be an entire category higher.
Ida's current behavior — strong and slow — is not a good combination.
And it’s not just the winds that will roar through the night across southeastern Louisiana but also a high risk for flash flooding. Projections of 6-12 inches of rain, with isolated areas picking up 20-24 inches, can cause deadly urban flooding and river flooding expected to last into the night.
Meteorologists warn about powerful elements of Ida
Meteorologists and other scientists have spotted a particularly dangerous element of Ida: a series of especially violent vortices — or areas of air moving in rotation — that can include high winds.
These circular wind patterns, known was mesovortices, tend to occur close to the storm's eye, making it all the more menacing.
"These distinct eyewall mesovortices (little filaments inside the typically circular eye) of Hurricane Ida are remarkable, and especially dangerous," tweeted Michael Lowry, a strategic planner and atmospheric scientists with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "Mesovortices are often associated with extreme, tornadic-like winds, one of many reasons you should never venture out during the eye."
Eric Snitil, chief meteorologist of the WROC local TV station in Rochester, New York, tweeted that it's not uncommon for strong storms to have these small vortices circling around the eye.
"Small satellite eddies called mesovortices rotate around the parent circulation, giving almost a starfish shape to it," he wrote. "Not uncommon in particularly strong hurricanes."
Bill Karins, a meteorologist with NBC News, likened the shape created by the mesovortices to a four-leaf clover, though not a particularly lucky one.
Photos: Ida drenches New Orleans after making landfall
National Weather Service: 'This is not what you want to see.'
In Jackson, Miss., residents fill up sandbags ahead of potential flash floods
JACKSON, Miss. — At a sandbag distribution site in Mississippi’s capital Sunday afternoon, residents scrambled to collect supplies to help fortify their homes ahead of a potential onslaught of flash flooding that could follow heavy rain wrought by Hurricane Ida.
More than a dozen people shared shovels and buckets and hoisted bulky bags into their vehicles underneath an overcast sky as thunder rumbled.
Debra Jones spent about 30 minutes shoveling sand into 12 bags that she planned to place along her front door and garage. Her west Jackson home hasn’t flooded before, but water has seeped into her neighbors’ homes during previous storms.
"I'm hoping and praying everything is going to be well," she said.
The city’s Public Works Department has already announced that the parts of some streets prone to flooding will be closed starting Monday.
Frederick Gates, who helped supervise and direct traffic at Sunday’s distribution, said the Public Works Department was beginning to work off a second pallet of supplies.
The warning that Ida, a Category 4 storm, could bring strong wind and major rain to central Mississippi prompted Jones to stock up on batteries, flashlights and foods that won’t spoil quickly in power outages.
Jones said the storm’s making landfall on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina evoked a heightened sense of caution.
“This puts a little fear in us to get more prepared,” she said.
Deanna Vail said her home in south Jackson has flooded at least twice — once in 1984 and again last year — in the almost 30 years she has lived here. She borrowed a family member’s truck to haul away about 25 sandbags with the help of her younger brother.