Hurricane Ida blasted ashore Sunday as one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the U.S., knocking out power to all of New Orleans, blowing roofs off buildings, and reversing the flow of the Mississippi River as it rushed from the Louisiana coast into one of the nation’s most important industrial corridors.

The hurricane was blamed for at least one death. The Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook that deputies responded to a home in Prairieville on a report of someone injured by a fallen tree. The person, who was not identified, was pronounced dead. Prairieville is a suburb of Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s capital city.

The power outage in New Orleans heightened the city’s vulnerability to flooding and left hundreds of thousands of people without air conditioning and refrigeration in the sweltering summer heat.

Ida — a Category 4 storm — hit on the same date Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi 16 years earlier, coming ashore about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of where Category 3 Katrina first struck land. Ida’s 150-mph (230 kph) winds tied it for the fifth-strongest hurricane to ever hit the mainland U.S. It dropped hours later to a Category 2 storm with maximum winds of 105 mph (165 kph) as it crawled inland, its eye about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west-northwest of New Orleans.


The rising ocean swamped the barrier island of Grand Isle as landfall came just to the west at Port Fourchon. Ida made a second landfall about two hours later near Galliano. The hurricane was churning through the far southern Louisiana wetlands, with more than 2 million people living in and around New Orleans and Baton Rouge under threat.

“This is going to be much stronger than we usually see and, quite frankly, if you had to draw up the worst possible path for a hurricane in Louisiana, it would be something very, very close to what we’re seeing,” Gov. John Bel Edwards told The Associated Press.

People in Louisiana woke up to a monster storm after Ida’s top winds grew by 45 mph (72 kph) in five hours as the hurricane moved through some of the warmest ocean water in the world in the northern Gulf of Mexico.


The entire city of New Orleans late Sunday was without power, according to city officials. The city’s power supplier — Entergy — confirmed that the only power in the city was coming from generators, the city’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness said on Twitter. The message included a screenshot that cited “catastrophic transmission damage” for the power failure.


The city relies on Entergy for backup power for the pumps that remove stormwater from city streets. Rain from Ida is expected to test that pump system.

More than 1 million customers were without power in two Southern states impacted by Ida — more than 930,000 in Louisiana and 28,000 in Mississippi, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks outages nationwide.

In New Orleans, the wind tore at awnings and caused buildings to sway and water to spill out of Lake Ponchartrain. The Coast Guard office in New Orleans received more than a dozen reports of breakaway barges, said Petty Officer Gabriel Wisdom. In Lafitte about 35 miles (55 km) south of New Orleans, a loose barge struck a bridge, according to Jefferson Parish officials.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Ricky Boyette said engineers detected a “negative flow” on the Mississippi River as a result of a storm surge. And Edwards said he watched a live video feed from around Port Fourchon as Ida came ashore that showed that roofs had been blown off buildings in “many places.”

“The storm surge is just tremendous,” Edwards told the AP.

Officials said Ida’s swift intensification from a few thunderstorms to a massive hurricane in just three days left no time to organize a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans’ 390,000 residents. Mayor LaToya Cantrell urged residents remaining in the city on Sunday to “hunker down.”

Marco Apostolico said he felt confident riding out the storm at his home in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, one of the city’s hardest-hit neighborhoods when levees failed and released a torrent of floodwater during Katrina.

His home was among those rebuilt with the help of actor Brad Pitt to withstand hurricane-force winds. But the memory of Katrina still hung over the latest storm.

“It’s obviously a lot of heavy feelings,” he said. “And yeah, potentially scary and dangerous.”

The region getting Ida’s worst includes petrochemical sites and major ports, which could sustain significant damage. It is also an area that is already reeling from a resurgence of COVID-19 infections due to low vaccination rates and the highly contagious delta variant.

New Orleans hospitals planned to ride out the storm with their beds nearly full, as similarly stressed hospitals elsewhere had little room for evacuated patients. And shelters for those fleeing their homes carried an added risk of becoming flashpoints for new infections.

Forecasters warned winds stronger than 115 mph (185 kph) threatened Houma, a city of 33,000 that supports oil platforms in the Gulf.

The hurricane was also threatening neighboring Mississippi, where Katrina demolished oceanfront homes. With Ida approaching, Claudette Jones evacuated her home east of Gulfport, Mississippi, as waves started pounding the shore.

“I’m praying I can go back to a normal home like I left,” she said. “That’s what I’m praying for. But I’m not sure at this point.”

Comparisons to Aug. 29, 2005, the landfall of Katrina weighed heavily on residents bracing for Ida. Katrina was blamed for 1,800 deaths as it caused levee breaches and catastrophic flooding in New Orleans. Ida’s hurricane-force winds stretched 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the storm’s eye, or about half the size of Katrina, and a New Orleans’ infrastructure official emphasized that the city is in a “very different place than it was 16 years ago.”


The levee system has been massively overhauled since Katrina, Ramsey Green, deputy chief administrative officer for infrastructure, said before the worst of the storm hit. While water may not penetrate levees, Green said if forecasts of up to 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain prove true, the city’s underfunded and neglected network of pumps, underground pipes, and surface canals likely won’t be able to keep up.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality was in contact with more than 1,500 oil refineries, chemical plants, and other sensitive facilities and will respond to any reported pollution leaks or petroleum spills, agency spokesman Greg Langley said. He said the agency would deploy three mobile air-monitoring laboratories after the storm passes to sample, analyze and report any threats to public health.

Louisiana’s 17 oil refineries account for nearly one-fifth of the U.S. refining capacity and its two liquefied natural gas export terminals ship about 55% of the nation’s total exports, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Government statistics show that 95% of oil and gas production in the Gulf Coast region was shut down as Ida made landfall on Sunday, according to energy company S&P Global Platts.

Louisiana is also home to two nuclear power plants, one near New Orleans and another about 27 miles (about 43 kilometers) northwest of Baton Rouge.

President Joe Biden approved emergency declarations for Louisiana and Mississippi ahead of Ida’s arrival. He said Sunday the country was praying for the best for Louisiana and would put its “full might behind the rescue and recovery” effort once the storm passes.

Edwards warned his state to brace for potentially weeks of recovery.

“Many, many people are going to be tested in ways that we can only imagine today,” the governor told a news conference.

Southern Louisiana’s hospitals, already packed with coronavirus patients from a fourth surge of the virus, were dealing Sunday with another challenge — the howling Category 4 hurricane pounding the coast.

Lady of the Sea General Hospital in Lafourche Parish, near where Ida made landfall, reported extensive roof damage. “All patients and staff are fine at this time without injury; although, our hospital has sustained significant damage,” hospital CEO Karen Collins said in a message relayed via Facebook. The hospital’s phone system was down.

“Once it is safe to do so they will evacuate their small number of patients,” state health department spokeswoman Aly Neel said in an email. Details on the number of patients involved were not immediately available.

Another Lafourche Parish hospital, Thibodaux Regional Medical Center, reported a partial generator failure to the state. Christina Stephens, a spokesperson for Gov. John Bel Edwards, said the facility “had not lost all critical power.” She said some patients were moved to another part of the facility and the state health department was working with the hospital.

Ida struck as hospitals and their intensive care units were filled with patients from the fourth surge of the COVID-19 pandemic, sparked by the highly contagious delta variant and low vaccination rates across Louisiana.

Daily tallies of new cases in Louisiana went from a few hundred a days through much of the spring and early summer to thousands a day by late July. Gov. John Bel Edwards told The Associated Press on Sunday that more than 2,400 COVID-19 patients are in Louisiana hospitals, saying the state was in a “very dangerous place with our hospitals.”

The governor also said 22 nursing homes and 18 assisted living facilities have been evacuated, though evacuating the largest hospitals was not an option because there simply aren’t other places to send them. Anticipating that power could be out for weeks in places, Edwards said a big focus will be on making sure there is enough generator power and water at hospitals so they can keep up with vital patient needs such as providing oxygen or powering ventilators.

“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 said.

Officials at Ochsner Health, which runs the largest hospital network in Louisiana, said roughly 15 of the network’s hospitals are in areas potentially affected by Ida. The network evacuated some patients with particular medical needs from small, rural hospitals to larger facilities.

Warner Thomas, president, and CEO of Ochsner Health, said Sunday that the system decided preemptively to evacuate a smaller hospital in St. Charles Parish when the storm’s track shifted a bit east.

He said 35 patients were moved to other hospitals in the region over a little less than three hours. When it comes to power at their facilities, Mike Hulefeld said, they are in pretty good shape. Three of their facilities in areas affected by Ida were moved to generator power in anticipation of losing city power.

Later Sunday the hospital system said they planned to evacuate all patients at two other hospitals in the system on Monday as soon as conditions allowed. One hospital, with 21 patients in Raceland, suffered roof damage while the other facility with 45 patients in Houma had roof damage and power issues. Other facilities have suffered roof damage, water leaks, and some damage to windows that required moving patients. At the hospital’s main campus just outside of New Orleans, Thomas said they’d had problems with water leaks but no structural issues and had performed some surgeries Sunday. They’ve had no injuries reported.

“We’ll know a lot more tomorrow morning when we have daylight,” he said.

Hulefeld said the hospital network ordered 10 days of supplies for facilities in areas that might be affected by Ida, and everything arrived Saturday. Each facility has backup power that was tested and a backup fuel truck on-site. Many of the chain’s hospitals also have water wells in case city water goes out.

With people evacuating and potentially going to stay with relatives or in shelters, medical officials said they are concerned the hurricane could translate into more coronavirus infections in the coming days just as hospitalization numbers are going down. Thomas said the hospital system has seen a decline in almost 200 coronavirus patients over the past week across all their facilities.

Officials said Sunday they have been making the rounds and talking to staff in the hospitals — often referred to as the “A-Team” because they’re the ones that go into lockdown when a hurricane arrives and work until the storm passes and they can be relieved. The hurricane comes on top of the year and a half-long pandemic that has been amazing stress on health care workers, and many are sad and frustrated.

“Folks realize they got a job to do. There are people who need to be cared for,” Thomas said. “But it does take a toll.”

Dr. Jeff Elder, medical director for emergency management at LCMC Health, said the system’s six hospitals went into lockdown mode Sunday. Employees were going to stay at the hospitals for the duration of the storm arrived Saturday and early Sunday and would sleep there.

Elder said one of the first things their hospitals do when storms arrive is discharge patients who are able to leave. However, the patient load is high because of the pandemic so they’re not able to reduce by much. He said the hospitals in the system are more robust since 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

“We’ve learned a lot since 2005,” he said. Key pieces of infrastructure are now raised to keep them out of flooding. For example, at University Medical Center in New Orleans, which was built after Katrina, the generator is raised, diesel supplies are protected and the first floor doesn’t have essential services so even if floodwaters get that high nothing essential is lost.

All hospitals in the system have generator backup power, Elder said. He also stressed that communication is now much better between hospitals in the hospital system as well as with various levels of government.

Hurricane Ida is sure to take a toll on the energy, chemical, and shipping industries that have major hubs along the Gulf Coast, but the impact on the overall U.S. economy should be modest so long as damage estimates don’t rise sharply and refinery shutdowns are not prolonged, economists suggested Sunday.

Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said the disruptions caused by Ida will likely lead him to downgrade his forecast for annual U.S. economic growth in the current July-September quarter by a few tenths of a percentage point. But that economic loss, he said, could be reversed in the final quarter of the year as a result of the rebuilding from the hurricane’s damage that will likely follow.

Zandi said he expects the nation’s gross domestic product — its total output of goods and services — to grow at a 6.5% annual rate in the second half of this year, matching the average growth of the first six months. Still, besides the impact of Ida, Zandi noted that the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus poses risks to the economic outlook, depending on how much it leads Americans to slow their spending on travel, restaurant meals, or other forms of spending.

“The key channel for Ida to impact the broader economy is through energy prices,” Zandi said. “We will have to see how much damage occurred to production in the Gulf and how long that production will stay offline.”

A brief spike in gasoline prices could result, Zandi said, because of the production shutdowns. But he suggested that the increase in pump prices might last for only a few weeks.

“The worst-case scenario is Ida might add 10 cents to 20 cents to the price of a gallon of gas through September,” he said. “That would be consistent with what has happened in the past when we have had bad storms blow through Louisiana.”

Brian Bethune, an economist at Boston College, said he agreed that a brief jump of up to 20 cents a gallon for gasoline was likely. Still, Bethune cautioned that the price increase could be more severe depending on how long the production shutdowns last and whether other regions have alternative supplies. He noted that after the hack of the Colonial Pipeline earlier this year, some states saw prices rise sharply as service stations ran out of gas.

S&P Global Platts said Sunday that government statistics show that 95% of oil and gas production in the Gulf Coast region was shut down as Ida made landfall. In addition, Platts said that nearly 4.4 million barrels per day of operating refinery capacity in the path of Ida, primarily in Louisiana, had been taken offline before the hurricane blew ashore Sunday afternoon.

“Many plants have been hardened against hurricanes, but disruptions in operations are still very likely due to flooding, power outages, and personnel dislocations,” Platts analysts said.