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Hurricane Ida Rescue Missions On Hold Until ‘First Light’ Monday, Gov. John Bel Edwards says

 Gov. John Bel Edwards briefs the media ahead of Hurricane Delta. Oct. 9, 2020.
Paul Braun
Gov. John Bel Edwards briefs the media ahead of Hurricane Delta. Oct. 9, 2020.

As Hurricane Ida continues to batter southeast Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Sunday afternoon that search and rescue operations will not begin until first light Monday morning due to the Category 4 storm’s dangerous conditions.

Because first responders will not be able to help until then, Edwards urged residents to shelter in place.

“It’s weather dependent and quite frankly, before the weather gets good enough for us to respond, it’s also going to be dark,” Edwards said.

The entirety of the more than 4,900-member Louisiana National Guard has been activated to respond to the storm. They’ll make use of 195 high-water vehicles, 73 boats and 34 helicopters.

Another 900 individuals from 16 different states will conduct search and rescue operations once conditions are safe enough.

Edwards spoke just hours after the storm made landfall near Port Fourchon as a Category 4 storm — on the 16th anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Katrina — with cataclysmic 150 mph winds and 16-foot storm surge. Later Sunday, he requested a major disaster declaration from President Joe Biden.

“This is one of the strongest storms to make landfall here in modern times,” Edwards said.

Edwards urged anyone sheltering at home to heed the advice of state officials and comply with curfews implemented by local authorities.

“For goodness sake, don’t drive around,” Edwards said. “Right now it just isn’t worth it.”

Edwards said the Army Corps of Engineers is confident that the federally-regulated Hurricane Storm Damage Risk Reduction System of levees, floodgates and pumps, implemented following Katrina, will perform as intended.

But some levees outside of that system may be overtopped.

“Obviously overtopping is concerning, but I want to make sure that everybody understands overtopping and levee failure are not the same thing,” Edwards said. “A levee failure can be much more catastrophic.”

Areas of concern are between Larose and Golden Meadow, non-federal back-levees around Middle Grove in Plaquemines Parish and non-federal levees in St. Bernard Parish.

None of the levees on the Mississippi River or in the Hurricane Storm Damage Risk Reduction System around New Orleans are in danger of overtopping, Edwards said.

Sunday afternoon 1,532 people were spread across 23 shelters, the vast majority of which were being operated by parish authorities. Edwards said he expects those numbers to increase as the storm conditions wane and individuals return to find uninhabitable homes.

The coronavirus has complicated evacuation and sheltering efforts, though.

Twenty-two nursing homes, 18 assisted living facilities and 61 intermediate care facilities in the state have been evacuated, but Edwards said overcrowding at the state’s acute care facilities prevented the evacuation of any of the Tier 1 hospitals in harm's way.

“No hospitals have been evacuated because quite simply there’s nowhere to bring those individuals,” Edwards said. “They’re in a hospital because they need that setting and we don’t have the capacity elsewhere.”

More than 445,000 Entergy customers in Louisiana were without power Sunday afternoon. Smaller utility providers have reported fewer outages, but those numbers are expected to soar once conditions improve and workers are able to more accurately assess the damage wrought by the storm.
Copyright 2021 WRKF. To see more, visit WRKF.

Paul Braun is WRKF's Capitol Access reporter.

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