Hurricane Ida at 10:40 am, about 80 minutes before it made landfall on Louisiana at Port Fourchon with 150 MPH wind. NOAA Satellite Imagery.

16-Foot Storm Surge and Saturated Ground May have Delayed Weakening

Louisiana, August 30, 2021: Hurricane Ida made landfall at Port Fourchon, Louisiana on Sunday August 29 about noon Central Time with sustained Winds of 150 MPH. A weather station recorded a wind gust 170 MPH. Ida brought a 12-16-foot storm surge ashore near the storm’s center with lessor amounts to the west and east. Instead of rapidly weakening as expected, Ida slowed down. With energy from its own storm surge and saturated soils, the storm maintained hurricane strength all the way to the Mississippi border. Ida was downgraded to a tropical storm about 3 A.M. this morning.

President Joe Biden declared Louisiana a disaster, opening the channels for federal aid money.

As of 10 A.M, over 1.1 utility customers in Louisiana and Mississippi remained without power as utility crews began assessing the damage.

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Key messages from National Hurricane Center start with a warning that storm surge inundation will continue along Mississippi and Alabama Coasts into the afternoon. New Orleans, along with the Mississippi and Alabama coasts, remains within the wind field and under a tropical storm warning. Sustained winds above 40 MPH extend south, southeast, and east.

Ida’s storm surge temporarily reversed the flow of the Mississippi River.

Hurricane Ida compared to Katrina

It was sixteen years ago that Hurricane Katrina made landfall as a category 3 storm, but it was much larger than Hurricane Ida. Katrina had a storm surge up to 28 feet, which overwhelmed the levee system and flooded New Orleans and the surrounding area. As a much smaller, but more powerful storm, Ida’s storm surge topped out at 12 to 16 feet. Most of the levee system did its job and kept the storm surge out. Katrina flooded about 80 percent of the city.

Kelli Chandler, regional director of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority pointed out that New Orleans is better protected than ever before with stronger, higher levees.

Both storms were very destructive and will go down in history.

The comparison of Ida to Katrina makes another fact quite clear. Category strength and wind speed are insufficient to judge a storm. Sixteen years ago, Katrina made landfall at Category 3 with 125 MPH wind. Ida made landfall with 150 MPH wind. Both storms caused catastrophic wind damage. Though it had higher winds, Ida’s storm surge was much less than Katrina’s.

Hurricane Ida Damage

This morning, FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell mentioned “widespread structural damage” some of it significant, which included building collapses.

Criswell also said the local electric utility brought in at least 6000 crews to help restore power. The Army Corp of Engineers will provide generators for critical facilities that need power. All of southeastern Louisiana is without power this morning as the storm severed the primary transmission lines. The city is without 911 service this morning.

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Ida stayed at Category 4 strength much longer than expected with high winds, extended storm surge, and torrential rain, and therefore caused more damage. Criswell said, “This is going to be a really long recovery.”

After Katrina, we got a standby generator from Norwall. Then came Gustav and Ike and Delta, Zeta, and now Ida. It starts right up in the middle of the hurricane and we’ve got power thirty seconds after it went out. ~Facebook user

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