Hurricane Ida slammed into the Gulf Coast this weekend, but we’re still getting a handle on the damages from the storm. While New Orleans made it through the storm without much flooding (though the city is suffering from widespread power outages and sewage problems), other parishes around the city were hit hard.
In an effort to get a handle on the disaster and help target aid to communities in need — and spot chemical spills and other dangers — the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been collecting aerial imagery of the affected areas. Together with satellite imagery from before the storm, they show the shocking trail of destruction Ida left in Louisiana’s bayou and the communities that call it home.
Ida Made Landfall In Port Fourchon
Ida was the third storm to hit the Louisiana coast in the past calendar year, after Laura and Delta last autumn. The hurricane made landfall as a Category 4 storm near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, with sustained winds clocking at a whopping 241 km/h, the fifth-strongest hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. Port Fourchon, Louisiana’s southernmost tip a 2-hour drive south from New Orleans, saw wind gusts of up to 277 km/h. The force of Ida’s winds can be seen in the roof torn to shreds in the lower right and debris strewn across the lots to the north (storm surge also likely gave that debris a shove).
Port Fourchon is a crucial fossil fuel hub for the country. About 90% of the Gulf of Mexico’s deepwater oil and gas supply — or up to 20% of the U.S.’s total — passes through the port. Production in the Gulf largely shut down ahead of the storm, but restarting it could be a challenge given the damage at the port, where various refineries and other infrastructure suffered damage. Oil and gas prices are rising as a result.
Grand Isle Is ‘Uninhabitable’
Officials in Grand Isle, an island 18 miles (29 kilometers) east of Port Fourchon, said in a press conference Monday that the island is now “uninhabitable” after Ida’s storm surge created around a dozen breaks in the levee and sent water and sediment streaming in. The hurricane has left 1 metre of sand covering the island, which you can see covering Route 1 on the western edge of the island in this image.
Grand Isle is Louisiana’s only barrier island with people living on it and has a population of just under 800. All residents were ordered evacuated before the storm, and rescuers saved about 15 remaining. The only people remaining on the island are the mayor, the police chief, and some first responders.
Homes Have Been ‘Decimated’
This image shows extensive damage to a boatyard in the town. All structures on the island were damaged, with 40% of those either entirely destroyed or close to destroyed.
“It’s decimated,” Bryan Adams, who directs Grand Isle’s fire services, said during the press conference. Adams said the aftermath from Ida was the worst he’s seen in 15 years of working on the island, and that it may take 3 to 4 years for the island to be restored. “The people are very sad. A lot of people have lost their homes.”
In Jefferson Parish, Waters Up To 12 Feet
In Jefferson Parish, a rural area just south of New Orleans, there was widespread damage throughout towns lying along the bayou. Winds reached up to 70 mph (113 kph) while floodwaters rose between 3 to 4 metres. Water is what causes the most damage when it comes to hurricanes, and that much is clear looking at locations that remained flooded a day or more after Ida passed by. In this image, you can see an entire neighbourhood lying along a canal in Barataria overcome with floodwater from the storm.
Jean Lafitte Is ‘Basically in the Gulf of Mexico’
Jean Lafitte sits on the other side of the canal from Barataria, and damage there has been equally catastrophic. This image shows Tom’s Marine and Salvage, a business in the town, overcome by water. The various pieces of industrial machinery strewn in the waters point to the toxic legacy Ida could leave behind for months or years to come.
The sheriff of Jean Lafitte, Marcel Rodriguez, told WWNO that Ida’s surge left 400 people in the area who didn’t evacuate trapped and said “they’re basically there in the Gulf of Mexico in a hurricane.”
‘Katrina Didn’t Do Anything to Us’
This image shows extensive damage to the Superior Shipyard and Fabrication shipyard along Route 1 just south of Golden Meadow, located about 40 kilometres to the north of Grand Isle. It’s part of Lafourche Parish, which truly bore the brunt of Ida in multiple ways.
Among the impacts, the storm wiped out between 20% and 30% of the shrimping boats in the town. That will further put the pinch on shrimpers who were already feeling squeezed by lower demand.
“We’ve never seen anything this powerful around here before,” shrimper Russell Plaisance told Reuters. “Katrina didn’t do anything to us. We’re just gonna try and survive.”
The Storm’s Winds Also Ripped Roofs Off
Further up Route 1 in the town of Galliano, debris was pushed from the shore into canal by the storm. Full-sized boats were tossed in the canal like toys, ending up sideways and wedged across the entire canal. Ida’s winds also appear to have ripped the roofs off a church on 186th St and a food store on 184th St.
The storm’s eye passing through Lafourche Parish also ripped the roof off of the Lady of the Sea General Hospital, an acute care 25-bed inpatient hospital in Galliano; part of the roof coming off was captured in a dramatic video on social media. Hospital staff reported that all patients survived, but the hospital has suffered significant damage.
Land Has Disappeared in Ida’s Surge
In some cases, the floodwaters have also turned land into liquid. The bayou is a dynamic place. Decades of oil extraction have and infrastructure have caused some land to sink, eroding Louisiana’s defences against storm surge. Ida has shown what can happen even enough chinks are taken out of the armour.
Taken together, the images show that Ida’s damage was widespread and help is urgently needed across Louisiana. You can find a list of organisations to donate to here.