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Levees Overtopped, Hundreds Stranded In Louisiana Following 'Catastrophic' Hurricane Ida

hurricane ida.jpg

Officials in southern Louisiana are conducting rescues and taking stock of the damage as the full scope of Hurricane Ida’s impacts become clear on Monday. Several levees were overtopped in Plaquemines and Jefferson parishes, and hundreds remain unaccounted for.

Desperate family members who evacuated are trying to reach those who stayed behind, and everyone is hampered by down phone connections, as there are widespread service outages for AT&T and Verizon. Many local officials have taken to posting updates on parish Facebook pages.

In Lafitte, which is in Jefferson Parish, about 30 miles south of New Orleans, officials have rescued about fifty people from rooftops and homes so far, said Joe Valiente, director of emergency management.

Local law enforcement were overwhelmed by calls from stranded residents on Sunday night but could not respond until the morning. Valiente said residents seemed shaken but were otherwise uninjured. Hundreds remain unaccounted for in the small town, where police and first responders continue to use boats to traverse high flood waters to make rescues.

Jefferson Parish officials are sending a helicopter to Grand Isle to assess damages there. Valiente said the island was unreachable and they had no idea how it had fared yet.

Widespread power and water outages are hindering efforts in many areas, as officials clear debris and downed power lines and trees to assess damage.

In Lafourche Parish, which was directly in the eye of Hurricane Ida, public information officer with the Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office, Brennan Matherne, called the damage “catastrophic” and “unbelievable,” describing total destruction of churches, schools and homes. He said a boat was washed up onto Highway 308 and was blocking the road.

The area remains without power or water. Matherne said the parish is working to figure out what water lines were damaged and get the service back up and running before telling residents it was okay to return home. He said there was a levee breach at Bayou Boeuf, just south of Lac des Allemands Sunday night, and at least 50 people were evacuated but had no further details.

Schools will be closed indefinitely, he noted, and a curfew is ongoing. Above all, Matherne said there was much to be done before the area would be safe for residents to return to, but, “We rely on our residents to come back and help us and get everything back up and running. We need them to come back as soon as possible.”

In Plaquemines Parish, officials reported total power outages and asked any remaining residents not to use water as the pressure was low and they are trying to reserve it. Sheriff Jerry Turlich confirmed that a levee was overtopped at Braithwaite, on the east bank south of New Orleans, where they issued emergency evacuations late Sunday as water rushed through the area.

Officials are using the Belle Chasse Auditorium as an evacuation center. “I want you guys to be home as soon as possible,” Turlich said in a Facebook video to residents. “Please be patient.” He said residents were welcome to come back to parts of the parish north of Phillips 66 on Highway 23, but there is too much damage south of there. That said, the area could be without power for weeks.

In St. Bernard Parish, the sheriff’s department was preparing boats to check areas south of the levee system, such as Yscloskey and Shell Beach, south of New Orleans on the east bank of the river.

Parish President Guy McInnis said the northern parts of the parish fared alright, but southern areas remain impassible. There are widespread power outages.

Officials were unreachable in Terrebonne and St. Charles parishes.

Support for the Coastal Desk comes from the Walton Family Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and local listeners.

Tegan Wendland

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