Rescue Efforts Underway in Louisiana after Hurricane Ida Leaves One Million Without Power

The Category 4 storm battered the New Orleans area Sunday, forcing thousands to evacuate before flooding homes and downing power lines.

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Hurricane Ida

Emergency medical supplies, including wound care, antibiotics and chronic disease medications, depart Direct Relief's warehouse for health providers responding to Hurricane Ida on August 30, 2021. The shipments included medical support for Rapides Primary Health Care Center in Alexandria, Louisiana, as well as CORE Response. Both organizations are conducting medical outreach and providing care to storm impacted communities. (Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)
Emergency medical supplies, including wound care, antibiotics and chronic disease medications, depart Direct Relief's warehouse for health providers responding to Hurricane Ida on August 30, 2021. The shipments included medical support for Rapides Primary Health Care Center in Alexandria, Louisiana, as well as CORE Response. Both organizations are conducting medical outreach and providing care to storm impacted communities. (Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)

Hurricane Ida rescue operations continued Monday after the Category 4 storm made landfall in Louisiana on Sunday, killing at least two people and knocking out power to more than 1 million residents

The storm dumped more than 16 inches of rain in some parts of the state and peak winds reached 150mph, tying Ida as the fifth-strongest storm ever to make landfall in the U.S. mainland. Ida touched down in New Orleans on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and one year after Hurricane Laura – also a Category 4 storm –  battered the state last August.

More than 2,000 evacuees were staying in shelters Monday morning, according to the Governor’s office, but with power lines down, hundreds of those who stayed behind remain out of reach. The Louisiana National Guard has activated dozens of rescue vehicles, including 73 boats and 34 helicopters, to recover those trapped in flooded homes and buildings, according to the Associated Press. Hundreds more are being deployed by local and state agencies.

Widespread power outages are affecting residents across Louisiana and Mississippi with roughly 1.1 million customers still without electricity, according to PowerOutages.US. More than 2,000 miles of transmission lines remain out of service, including all eight that deliver power to New Orleans, as reported by the New York Times.

Ida, now a Tropical Storm, is expected to dump rain and bring flash flooding to areas along its northeast track, including Mississippi, Tennessee, and the Ohio River Valleys. The storm will likely reach the New England coast by Friday where it will continue out to sea.

Hurricanes and Health Impacts

Hurricanes and similar storms can bring with them a host of health concerns for those affected. Covid-19 complicates evacuation efforts in congregant shelters, and health systems already strained by the pandemic may experience another surge of patients needing care from the storm’s impacts. High burdens of chronic disease, like diabetes and heart disease, can also complicate evacuation efforts. If a person managing a chronic disease is suddenly cut off from reliable prescription medications or medical care, they may require emergency care. Power and water outages can also impede local health providers, and a storm’s after-effects also present health concerns, ranging from water-borne illness to the risk of tetanus from clean-up and recovery efforts.

Direct Relief’s Response

Direct Relief has made its inventory of medical aid, including antibiotics, chronic disease medication, and over-the-counter products, available to 214 federally qualified health centers and free clinics across Louisiana, Mississippi, and other states in Ida’s path. Emergency shipments are being prepared or are en roure for providers treating patients in the New Orleans area, including Baptist Community Health Services and the Low Barrier Shelter as well as Open Health Care Clinic in Baton Rouge, MLK Health Center and Pharmacy in Shreveport, and Rapides Primary Health Care Center in Alexandria. Shipments include wound care supplies, infection control medication, tetanus vaccines, personal protective equipment, and hygiene items for evacuees.

To more effectively target medical aid, Direct Relief’s Research and Analysis team is analyzing social vulnerability in Hurricane Ida’s impact zone. Of the 5.3 million residents in the area of highest impact nearly 1 million are living below the poverty level, over 780,000 are age 65 and older, and 2 million are members of minority groups. In the same area, there are more than 350,000 mobile homes and nearly 150,000 households that do not have a vehicle. Direct Relief is working with health centers in areas struck by Hurricane Ida to set up real-time location tracking for mobile medical units used by community health providers to bring critical care to those who lack transportation.

Direct Relief staff will continue to track Hurricane Ida’s impacts and respond to requests for emergency medical aid as assessments are made.

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