By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – Hurricane Ida has finally come and now has left Louisiana, but she is travelling through the eastern states leaving storms and plenty of water in her path.
The predictions for this storm were dire in the days leading up to landfall: “worst storm in Louisiana history!” said one, and “bigger than Katrina!” said others. As landfall was predicted on the sixteen-year anniversary of Katrina, comparisons were inevitable.
As the storm approached the coast, the cone consistently shifted to the east just a little more with every new track. This eventually took my beloved Acadiana region out of danger, and Shreveport, up in the NW corner was never really in danger. We spend a lot of time in Arnaudville and the Acadiana region, and we have a lot of friends there, so we watched the progress with a lot of anxiety.
The storm made landfall as a high-end Cat 4 about noon Sunday; it was hard to concentrate on the sermon in church yesterday. Wind gusts in places were as high as 180 mph when the storm hit Port Fourchon; I read where 28 people chose to ride out the hurricane in Grand Isle. This is akin to suicide in my mind. I don’t know how many of them survived. When the storm made landfall it briefly reversed the direction of the Mississippi River.
The only way to get any reliable news or information yesterday was via live streams of local channels. The Weather Channel was a joke. There was Jim Cantore standing in the French Quarter, braced against the wind as if he was about to fly off while two guys walked the sidewalk behind him sipping coffee. In another shot, Cantore is again braced in the street and another guy runs into the back of the camera shot and turns a cartwheel. The only positive about that coverage to me was the humor factor in listening to the broadcasters mispronounce Louisiana place names. Houma, Louisiana (prounounced HOME ah) became HOOOOM ah for example. The news anchor did everything she could to avoid saying Atchafalaya and Tchoupitoulas.
This morning as damage is assessed, the Cajun Navy is busy making rescues. Levees were overtopped in some places and people have flooded. LaPlace, Louisiana is completely underwater and impassable. An Entergy tower fell into the Mississippi River leaving NOLA without power; this is expected to be a problem for weeks. It also means that 911 is down.
Damage assessment is ongoing. While some areas are obviously flooded, luckily we are not seeing the massive flooding that we did with Katrina. The damage is extensive of course and cleanup will take a long time. Lake Charles, over on the Louisiana/Texas border, still has not recovered from the triple shot of storms they endured in the last twelve months, the biggest being Hurricane Laura. Nobody expects this to be fixed soon.
In our area we have a lot of evacuees in shelters anxious to return home. Officials are asking everyone to be patient. There are no sanitary services in most places, no water, no power. The death toll will certainly climb; it is early yet.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.