Power was still out for more than a million homes and businesses early Tuesday after Hurricane Ida swept through Louisiana and Mississippi, bringing with it floods, destruction and the deaths of at least four people.
The powerful weather system, now a tropical depression, was one of the strongest hurricanes ever to make landfall in the region.
Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, who is flying out to some of the harder hit areas on Tuesday with Gov. John Bel Edwards, said that the number of deaths could rise.
“Knowing that so many people stayed behind in places like Grand Isle and Lafitte where flood waters have devastated those areas, we expect there will be more people found that have passed,” he said on NBC’s “TODAY” show early Tuesday.
“Too many people always ride these storms out and take their lives into their hands.”
Late Monday, two people were killed and 10 were injured after a 50-foot stretch of highway collapsed in George County, Mississippi, an area that had torrential rains in the past 24 hours. Three of the injured were critical, according to Mississippi Highway Patrol Trooper Calvin Robertson. Authorities have not identified the two people who died.
The latest on Ida:
Earlier in the day, at least two deaths in Louisiana were linked to the storm: a 60-year-old man, who died in Ascension Parish when a tree fell on his home, and a man who drowned after driving through a flooded road, authorities said.
Another 71-year-old Louisiana man was presumed dead after being attacked by an alligator on Monday in an area that flooded during Hurricane Ida, the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office said. A woman in Slidell said her husband was walking in floodwaters around noon when he was attacked by the large alligator, the sheriff’s office said.
She said she pulled him to safety and then went to get help in a boat, but when she returned, he was not on the front steps.
The system made its way to northern Mississippi early Tuesday, bringing with it heavy rains and the threat of floods from the Gulf Coast to the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys and into the mid-Atlantic on Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The hurricane center also warned of the threat of tornadoes across eastern Alabama, western Georgia, and the Florida Panhandle.
Ida made landfall as a Category 4 storm on Sunday, with howling 150 mph winds on the same date that the devastating Hurricane Katrina struck 16 years earlier.
More than 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana remained without power for a second day early Tuesday. Entergy, one of the region’s main power utilities, tweeted Monday that it “will likely take days to determine the extent of damage to our power grid … and far longer to restore electrical transmission to the region.”
Nungesser said crews are working day and night to restore power and that some areas will come back on in days, while others will take weeks.
“The good news is that Louisiana helps our neighbors out,” he said on “TODAY.” “With Covid on top of this, the stress on families is incredible. It’s going to be along road and we’re going to need a lot of help.”
Residents who stayed in the area throughout the storm woke up Monday to scenes of destruction. Houma, Louisiana, resident Theophilus Charles, 70, lost the home his grandmother built in the storm.
“I ain’t got a dry spot in the house. My roof fell. I lost all my clothes, my furniture, my appliances, everything,” he told Reuters.
“I lost everything that I had. I mean I lost everything. And nothing I can do with this, ain’t no repair you know.”
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Louisiana’s medical system, already stretched to capacity by the Covid-19 crisis, was another major cause for concern both before and after the storm hit. Four hospitals have evacuated patients, while many others are surveying damage to their buildings.
“About the last thing in the world we needed was a Category 4 hurricane but here it is,” Dr. Mark Kline, physician-in-chief of Children’s Hospital New Orleans said on MSNBC on Monday.
The hospital, which had some flooding on the ground floor, as well as water leaking through the roof, is now running on a generator. Kline said that he, along with much of the hospital’s staff, have yet to go home to survey the damage to their own homes.
Experts are also concerned that the Louisiana’s high levels of circulating coronavirus, coupled with the low vaccination rates and the forced close proximity that occurs during a storm, could set the stage for an explosion of Covid-19 cases.
Edwards urged evacuees not to try to return home, citing widespread power outages, road closures and other dangerous conditions.
“There are an awful lot of unknowns right now,” he told a news conference Monday. “There are certainly more questions than answers. I can’t tell you when power is going to be restored. I can’t tell you when all the debris is going to be cleaned up and repairs made and so forth. What I can tell you is we’re going to work hard every single day to deliver as much assistance as we possibly can.”
Officials at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport said that there would be no flights in or out of the city on Tuesday, and there were so far 197 cancellations for Wednesday.
On Monday, dozens of rescue missions were launched across southern Louisiana to evacuate people stranded in their homes. Operations to answer the hundreds of rescue calls were hampered by inoperable 911 lines, now restored, and poor cellphone service reported throughout southeastern Louisiana.
The Louisiana National Guard activated 4,900 Guard personnel and was positioned to send nearly 200 high-water vehicles and more than 70 rescue boats and 30 helicopters. By Monday afternoon, 191 people and 27 pets had been rescued after crews checked 400 homes, Edwards told reporters.
Power still out for more than a million in Louisiana as weakened Ida moves through Mississippi is written by Rachel Elbaum and The Associated Press for www.nbcnews.com