First Responders

In the Wake of Hurricane Ida: No Power, No Water, No 911

September 1, 2021Noelle Wiehe
hurricane Ida wake

A damage assessment team from Federal Emergency Management Agency Texas Task Force 1 found survivors, including the four-legged kind, in the wake of Hurricane Ida, seeking to cool off with no electricity in Houma, Louisiana, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. Photo courtesy of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

THIBODAUX, La. Two days after Hurricane Ida sawed through southern Louisiana, downed power lines drape Lafourche Parish.

Upturned trees clog roadways. Gas stations pump no fuel. Winds whip at tarps that replaced roofs ripped away Sunday, Aug. 29, by 154 mph gusts.

In the sweltering and surreal aftermath of the most powerful cyclone to hit the Pelican State in a half-century, kids can be seen wading in above-ground pools only a rock-skip from metal carports crumpled like discarded napkins.

Serenaded by the constant song of chainsaws, local, state, and federal first responders are toiling to restore services, deter looters, and rebuild shattered neighborhoods.

US Border Patrol agents from the Lake Charles Station clear downed trees from a residence Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, in the wake of Hurricane Ida. Photo by Glenn Fawcett, courtesy of US Customs and Border Protection.

On Monday afternoon in Thibodaux, barefooted Lafourche Emergency Preparedness director Chris Boudreaux and his team began setting up a field headquarters in a Walmart parking lot.

He said he’d slept six hours since Ida made landfall before noon Sunday at Port Fourchon, 71 miles southeast of this city of about 15,000 people along the banks of Bayou Lafourche.

“A lot of things started going out in that time,” Boudreaux told Coffee or Die Magazine.

Power and 911 emergency calls and cell towers went first, but some communities also lack clean drinking water.

hurricane Ida wake coffee or die
In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, there’s no place to get fuel. Storm damage blasted this station in Lockport Heights, Louisiana, and power was cut to nearly 1 million Louisiana customers. Photo by Noelle Wiehe/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Patrol officers park at highway ramps to urge motorists to avoid debris-strewn roads. A curfew issued a dozen hours before the hurricane arrived remains in effect.

Taking a turn down the wrong road or staying too long near a rising bayou can turn deadly.

About 40 miles northeast of Thibodaux in St. John the Baptist Parish, the Louisiana State Urban Search and Rescue Task Force has taken 500 people to safety since Lake Pontchartrain spilled its banks Sunday, officials said.

Although Thibodaux was spared from flash floods, no one knows when the thousands of evacuated residents will be invited back to their homes. 

hurricane Ida wake coffee or die
Central Lafourche High School in Raceland, Louisiana, remains shuttered in the wake of Hurricane Ida. Photo by Noelle Wiehe/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Firefighters and other first responders continue to file damage assessments and clear clogged roadways.

“It’s just taking time; there is a lot of damage,” Boudreaux said. “I wouldn’t even want to guess.” 

Utility giant Entergy reported Tuesday that crews had restored electricity to about 64,000 Louisiana homes and businesses. But that’s only 7% of the customers who were without power, leaving another 840,000 waiting for juice.

Hurricane damage to eight high-voltage lines cut power for New Orleans, plus Jefferson, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines parishes.

hurricane Ida wake
Flyover photos released by the Louisiana National Guard and Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021, revealed the widespread devastation left in Hurricane Ida’s wake. Photo courtesy of the Louisiana National Guard.

Portions of St. Charles and Terrebonne parishes will also be in the dark Tuesday night, officials said.

Now downgraded to a tropical depression, Ida continues to trundle northeast across the Tennessee Valley toward the central Appalachian Mountains.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami predict Ida will enter the mid-Atlantic states Wednesday to merge with a frontal zone. 

The cyclone will then move north, settling just south of New York’s Long Island.

The storm is expected to dump up to 8 inches of rain on portions of West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey this week.

Read Next: ‘The Good Ones Stand Up Front’: Remembering Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum

Noelle Wiehe
Noelle Wiehe

Noelle is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die through a fellowship from Military Veterans in Journalism. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and interned with the US Army Cadet Command. Noelle also worked as a civilian journalist covering several units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment on Fort Benning, before she joined the military as a public affairs specialist.

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