Hundreds of thousands of Louisiana residents suffocated after Hurricane Ida on Tuesday with no power, no tap water, very little gas, and no idea when things could get better, Long lines wrapped around the block at the few service stations that had fuel and generator power to pump it. People took the rotten food out of the refrigerators. Neighbors shared generators and used buckets of pool water to bathe or flush the toilets.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us and no one is under the illusion that this will be a short process,” Governor John Bel Edwards said as the cleanup and recovery began in the soggy region at the oppressive end of summer. hot.
More than 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi, including all of New Orleans, were without power when Ida shut down the power grid Sunday in 150 mph (240 kph) winds, toppling a major transmission tower and taking power out. thousands of people. miles of lines and hundreds of substations.
More than 25,000 utility workers are estimated to have worked to restore electricity, but authorities said it could take weeks.
With water treatment plants overwhelmed by flooding or paralyzed by power outages, some places also face a shortage of potable water. About 441,000 people in 17 parishes were without water and another 319,000 were under boil water warnings, federal officials said.
The death toll rose to at least four in Louisiana and Mississippi, including two people who died Monday night when seven vehicles plunged into a 20-foot-deep (6-meter-deep) hole near Lucedale, Mississippi, where a road collapsed after torrential rains. Edwards said he expects the death toll to rise.
In Slidell, teams searched for a 71-year-old man whose wife said he was attacked by an alligator in the waters off Ida. She led him to the steps of the house and paddled away to seek help, but when she returned, he was gone, authorities said.
Wildlife officials warned of wild bears, snakes, alligators, and pigs foraging for food after the storm.
Edwards traveled with FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell to see the damage firsthand. She said FEMA teams arriving Tuesday would go from house to house in the worst-hit neighborhoods to register people for help, particularly in areas with widespread cell phone outages.
The governor warned some of those who fled their homes not to return until the authorities gave the go-ahead.
“The schools are not open. Businesses are not open. Hospitals are slammed shut. There is no water in his house and there will be no electricity, ”he said after touring LaPlace in the suburban parish of St. John the Baptist, where 80% of the rescues took place, but not the deaths. “So we’re going to take you where you can be safe and somewhat comfortable.”
In New Orleans, drivers lined up for about a quarter of a mile, waiting to get into a Costco that was one of the few places in the city with gas. At other gas stations, motorists occasionally approached the pumps, saw the handles covered with plastic bags, and drove off.
Michael Pinkrah used his dwindling fuel to find food. He cradled his 3-week-old son in the back seat of a pickup truck and his 2-year-old daughter played in the front seat while his wife made a long line in the sweltering heat to get into one of the few grocery stores. open in the city.
Pinkrah said he and his wife considered evacuating but couldn’t find a hotel room. They found out about the open store through social media. But even that bond was tenuous.
“We cannot charge our electronic devices to keep in touch with people. And without that, all communication just fails, ”he said.
In another part of New Orleans, Hank Fanberg said his two neighbors offered him access to his generators. He also had a plan for cooking food: “I have a gas grill and a charcoal grill.”
In Houma, the sad reality of life without air conditioning, refrigeration, or other more basic necessities began to sink in.
“There is no electricity. Our desperate need right now is tarps, gas for generators, food, water, ”said Pastor Chad Ducote. He said a group from the Mississippi church arrived with some food and supplies but left in 10 minutes. Neighbors came to Ducote’s pool to collect buckets of water.
To the misery was added the humid climate. A heat advisory has been issued for New Orleans and the rest of the region, and forecasters said the combination of high temperatures and humidity could cause them to feel like 105 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius) on Tuesday and 106 on Wednesday.