Hurricane Ida Lashes LA, Moves Along Energy-Critical Gulf Coast
By a Biometrica staffer
On Sunday, Aug. 29, the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, President Joe Biden declared a major disaster state in Louisiana as Hurricane Ida, a Category 4 hurricane with winds of up to 150 mph, made landfall in the state, leaving wreckage in its wake. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is already on-ground, helping local officials with their response.
There has been one death reported so far as a result of the storm, which began to move inland along the Gulf Coast, according to the National Hurricane Centre. President Biden has also spoken to governors of other Gulf Coast states and has coordinated with electric utilities companies, reports say.
“We’ve pre-positioned food, water, generators and other supplies in the area. Power restoration and mobile communications support teams are also en route,” President Biden said at a briefing with FEMA. “We’ve also closely coordinated with the electric utilities to restore power as soon as possible.”
More than 800,000 people across Louisiana are without power. City officials said that the only power in New Orleans was coming from generators. Aside from loss of life and damage to property, the energy sector is being severely affected by the hurricane.
Energy companies in the Gulf of Mexico slashed crude oil production by 91%, or 1.65 million barrels, according to the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, NBC said. The cuts were even more severe than those put in place ahead of Katrina, when 153 million barrels a day were taken offline.
At least 290 facilities were evacuated and 11 drill vessels were relocated so that they would not be in the path of the hurricane. The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the largest privately owned crude terminal in the country also stopped production ahead of the storm
Hospitals in Southern Louisiana, already struggling to deal with the caseload of patients as a result of the fourth surge of the Covid-19 pandemic, have been put under further pressure by Ida, Associated Press reported.
“All patients and staff are fine at this time without injury; although, our hospital has sustained significant damage,” Karen Collins, CEO of Lady of the Sea General Hospital in Lafourche Parish, near where Ida made landfall, said.
More than 2,400 patients were in Louisiana hospitals as a result of Covid-19 and the state was “in a very dangerous place with our hospitals,” Gov. John Bel Edwards told Associated Press. “I hate to say it this way, but we have a lot of people on ventilators today and they don’t work without electricity,” he added.
Several hospitals in the region reported roof damage and partial disruption of generators. Hospitals had tested generators in advance and had back up fuel in place to last at least 10 days, officials said.
The impending arrival of Ida also forced casinos in the Gulf Coast region to close on Saturday, Aug. 28. Belle of Baton Rouge, the Hollywood Casino Baton Rouge, and L’Auberge Casino and Hotel, all riverboat casinos, had closed before the hurricane hit. Reports from various establishments detailed how storm surges were causing flooding, and how sandbags and tarps placed at entrances were not able to stem the flow.
FEMA, the point agency for the federal government, working with others who provide goods used in relief efforts, is expected to have a large volume of freight that needs to reach destinations in a timely and urgent manner. Relief efforts are counting on the trucking industry to take center stage and help move things forward, FreightWaves said.
Already, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a waiver of the “Hours of Service” rule for the six states of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. The waiver was applicable to truck drivers “providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts transportation supplies, goods, equipment and fuel” to the affected states, according to FreightWaves.