The death toll in Louisiana from Hurricane Ida rose to 13 on Sunday — one week after the storm made landfall at Category 4 strength — as a 74-year-old New Orleans man was confirmed to have died due to heat exhaustion amid the ongoing power outages. Dangerous conditions persist where Ida cut its path across the state.
Hundreds of thousands remain without power, fuel shortages persist
As of Monday morning, over 520,000 customers remained without electricity in southeast Louisiana, according to PowerOutage.us — that’s just over half of those who lost power due to Ida.
Power is expected to be restored to all of Orleans parish by Wednesday, but other areas, particularly along the hard-hit coastline, may not have electricity for weeks. One of the main energy companies in the region said that more than 22,000 electricity poles and more than 5,200 transformers had either been damaged or destroyed by Ida.
With the area suffering under a heat advisory, New Orleans has been transporting people to air-conditioned shelters beyond the city and state. FEMA has announced that evacuation aid was available to area residents who need to relocate to hotels to escape the heat.
Meanwhile, long lines have been reported at gas stations across southern Louisiana in recent days, with fuel shortages due to both high demand and reduced supply amid the power outages and temporary shutdown of refineries in the state. As of Sunday, nearly 90 percent of crude oil output and more than 80 percent of natural gas production in the Gulf region remained suspended.
Dangerous weather persists
Per CNN, it’s not only dangerously hot where Ida struck the state, but thunderstorms could bring more flooding on Monday:
Parts of southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi, including Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Gulfport, are under a heat advisory Monday, as high temperatures will be in the upper 80s and lower 90s, with a heat index between 100 and 105 degrees.
In addition, a flash flood watch is in effect in the region from noon through the evening Monday as slow-moving thunderstorms are expected to develop. These storms will produce widespread heavy rain of 2 to 3 inches in a short period of time, which will likely lead to flash flooding due to soils already saturated with water.
Source of at least one oil spill identified
Last week, an oil spill was spotted spreading out a dozen miles into the Gulf of Mexico from near Port Fourchon, where Ida made landfall on the coast of Louisiana. On Sunday night, the company managing the cleanup said a broken underwater oil pipeline was the apparent source. According to the Associated Press, divers hired by Houston-based Talos Energy found a one-foot-diameter pipe along the ocean floor which had been dislodged and broken open during the storm.
It is not yet clear how much oil has been released in the spill, or who owns the pipeline — but the slick has remained offshore. Cleanup ships have been at the scene in Bay Marchand for several days, trying to contain and recover the oil.
That isn’t the only spill caused by Ida. The AP notes that three oil slicks could be seen on Saturday near where divers apparently discovered the broken pipeline. Two other instances of oil or gas spills have been detected elsewhere in the region, at a Phillips 66 Alliance Refinery along the Mississippi River, and at a now-closed wellhead five miles from the Bay Marchand spill.
The U.S. Coast Guard said on Monday that it is investigating almost 350 reports of oil spills in Ida’s aftermath.
Seniors continue to be the most vulnerable
The Louisiana Department of Health has shut down seven nursing homes, which had evacuated some 850 residents to a warehouse in Independence, Louisiana, where multiple people subsequently died in the aftermath of the storm. A total of seven deaths have been linked to the situation at the warehouse, where backup generators failed and evacuees were neglected in squalid conditions. The warehouse was evacuated and closed down on Thursday, and more than a dozen evacuees had to be hospitalized. The seven nursing homes which had sent their residents to the location were closed down by the state on Saturday and an investigation is under way.
The scandal over the treatment of the nursing-home residents continues to grow. The owner of the nursing homes, who has a long history of regulatory complaints against him, has suggested the evacuation went well and number of deaths was below average. The LDH said its inspectors were expelled from the property when they tried to evaluate conditions there last week.
Elsewhere in the state, at least eight powerless apartment complexes, filled with senior citizens, were evacuated around New Orleans on Friday and Saturday. Five residents of the complexes died last week amid high temperatures in their apartments. The deaths and dangerous conditions have led to questions about how the building managers handled the aftermath of the storm.
This post has been updated.