(CNN) — From Louisiana to New York, communities are trying to piece lives back together more than a week after Hurricane Ida slammed into the Gulf Coast.
When it made landfall in Louisiana on August 29, Ida was a Category 4 hurricane; and though it weakened into a tropical depression as it reached the Northeast, it brought devastation to the region nonetheless.
In both areas of the US, roadways turned to rivers, lives were lost and structures were destroyed by strong winds and rising waters. The recovery and repair could last weeks in some places, officials said.
Just following the landfall, more than a million people were without power in Louisiana. A week later, more than 530,000 customers are in the dark, according to PowerOutage.US. The lack of power has paired with a fuel shortage, making for a “double whammy,” Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng said on CBS “Face the Nation.”
“I’m just wondering where the help is,” St. Charles Parish resident Eric Mertz said Friday. “I don’t have air conditioning. No lights. I had Covid last year. I was in the ICU for 14 days, and I’m on oxygen (treatments now). And I don’t have no electricity — it’s rough.”
In Queens, New York, those impacted by the storm were seeking resources to help in the recovery Sunday. Some needed help getting their utilities back, some needed help with the water damage and others needed assistance with the emotional traumas.
“If you drive around Queens, it looks like a bomb went off. Everybody’s personal belongings are out on the street and we’ve seen what it looks like down south after a hurricane. This is what Queens looks like today. It’s horrible,” Queens resident Barbara Amarantinis told CNN.
Due to climate change, destruction like that seen in both the Gulf and East Coast from extreme weather will be “our new normal,” Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell warned Sunday.
“This is the crisis of our generation, these impacts that we are seeing from climate change, and we have to act now to try to protect against the future risks that we are going to face,” Criswell said during an interview on Fox Sunday morning.
Hundreds of thousands without electricity in Louisiana
In Louisiana, not only was the damage from the storm severe, but the impact on utilities has made it even harder for many parts of the state to recover.
The state still has a long way to go in its recovery process, and the biggest challenge is with electricity, Gov. John Bel Edwards said.
More than 550,000 customers were still without power in Louisiana early Monday morning, according to PowerOutage.US.
Responding to a reporter’s question, the governor said the electrical infrastructure does need to be strengthened. While the infrastructure will be hard pressed to withstand a storm as strong as Hurricane Ida, he said it does seem it needs to be strengthened to get closer to being able to.
Portions of Jefferson Parish experienced “more busted power poles (and) down utility lines than we’ve had in history” due to Hurricane Ida, said a Saturday update from Parish Councilman Dominick Impastato.
“There’s not a neighborhood that’s been spared, there’s not a street that’s been spared, there’s not a neighborhood that doesn’t have a massive amount of split power poles,” said Impastato.
Much of the US came to the aid of the state in the aftermath of Ida to help displaced people and restore downed utilities.
“Louisiana’s National Guard is 7,568 members strong with assistance from 9 states,” said Edwards in a series of tweets over the weekend.
More than 30,000 linemen from 40 states were assisting with power restoration, Edwards said.
And as the region looks to get things back up and running, some officials are also looking ahead to changes that could be made in the future.
At least seven people have died after being evacuated from a nursing home to a warehouse in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, CNN has reported. In response, State Sen. Kirk Talbot said he wants to require backup generators at nursing homes.
“I can tell you that the first bill I’ll file next year will be to mandate that nursing homes have backup generator power,” Talbot told CNN affiliate WDSU.
‘Once in a century storm’ hits the east
After surveying the damage in Louisiana Friday, President Joe Biden will travel to New Jersey and New York on Tuesday to assess the impact on the East Coast, where the storm claimed the lives of at least 50 people.
Paterson, New Jersey, Mayor André Sayegh lamented the destruction, telling CNN, “As if a once in a century virus wasn’t enough, we had a once in a century storm.”
In Paterson alone, about 300 people have been rescued, almost 100 cars were left abandoned throughout the city and 30 families were seeking refuge at emergency shelters Saturday, Sayegh said.
Many of the efforts at rescue have been strenuous, like the assistance of a man on the banks of the Passaic River near a bridge. Paterson Fire Chief Brian McDermott described how Paterson’s Metro Urban Strike Team drilled a hole in the concrete bridge, ploughing through several layers of rebar and corrugated steel to see through to the bottom of the bridge and eventually pull the man out.
“All while the storm is raging, the winds are raging, and we’re handling a third alarm fire. An ambulance trapped with people. A hundred fifty people calling for help and we’re only 8.4 square miles — that’s a lot going on,” McDermott said commenting on his team’s overall rescue operations.
In Elizabeth, New Jersey, a mother, father, and son died by drowning in their apartment building, officials said.
Rosa Espinal, 72, and her husband Jose Torres, 71, and their 38-year-old son Jose Torres died when more than a dozen feet of water drenched their apartment in a residential complex, city spokesperson Kelly Martins told CNN Friday. Their neighbor, 33-year-old Shakia Garrett, also drowned, Martins said
In New York, the initial assessment of the damage Ida left behind is estimated as at least $50 million, Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a news conference Sunday afternoon.
Displaced New Yorkers will be eligible for temporary housing assistance funds, unemployment assistance, legal services, crisis counseling and home repairs, she said.
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