Electricity supply in New Orleans was cut and the property was damaged Sunday as Hurricane Ida hit the State of Louisiana, it was reported.
Winds as strong as 240 km/h caused devastation statewide, bringing back memories of Katrina in 2005.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has warned of catastrophic damage and that prolonged power cuts are expected in the region, affecting over 700,000 people.
”The extremely dangerous Category 4 Hurricane Ida touches the ground near Port Fourchon (some 100 miles south of New Orleans)...,” the NHC agency.
Heavy rains had been affecting the deserted streets of New Orleans since the morning, where residents have boarded up windows and blocked sandbags.
Located in the Gulf of Mexico, Fourchon is the land base for Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), the largest privately-owned crude oil terminal in the US, which halted deliveries before the storm hit after possible impacts on their operational areas were forecast.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said on Sunday that Ida was likely to cause one of the biggest storms to hit the state since the 1850s. There is no doubt that the coming days and weeks are going to be extremely difficult.
Find the safest environment in your home and stay there until the storm has passed, he posted on social media.
Edwards also expressed concern that hospital beds were already occupied by patients with Covid, which could make the situation even more difficult.
US President Joseph Biden called Ida a life-threatening storm and one that continues to devastate everything she comes in contact with. After a meeting with federal emergency management officials, Biden urged anyone in the path of the hurricane to seek shelter immediately and follow official recommendations.
Amid urgent warnings of possible catastrophic damage, most residents followed the authorities' recommendations to leave the region. A record number of people jammed New Orleans' exit highways on the eve of Ida's arrival.
Ida was later downgraded to a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 115 mph (193 km/h) and is forecast to head towards the northeast this Monday morning.
Meanwhile, a first fatality was reported in the state about 8:30 p.m Sunday. The victim is believed to have been killed by a fallen tree in Prairieville, south of Baton Rouge, Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office reported.
Residents were advised to evacuate several days ahead of the hit. Those who did not manage to flee the state by Sunday were urged to shelter in place for 24 hours.
With Edwards warning that Ida is on course to become one of Louisiana's worst hurricanes since the 1850s, parallels have been drawn between the current storm and the devastating Katrina, which killed over 1,800 people in 2005.
Edwards anticipated Ida would be an important test for the state's flood prevention system, expanded after the devastating passage of Katrina.
The Governor also added that Louisiana hospitals were already “full of COVID patients.” With a low vaccination rate, the State is among the ones hardest hit by the pandemic.
Sunday was also Katrina's 16th anniversary. It flooded 80% of New Orleans, leaving 1,800 dead and billions of dollars in damage.
The White House said Sunday that federal agencies had mobilized more than 2,000 emergency workers in the region (including 13 urban search and rescue teams), along with food and water supplies, as well as electric generators. Biden also declared a state of emergency in Louisiana. He called for all people in the shelters to wear masks and maintain a safe distance.
The port of Louisiana is the only deepwater terminal in the US capable of unloading supertankers. According to the Port Fourchon website, it covers: about 10% to 15% of US domestic oil; 10% to 15% of foreign oil imports; is connected to about half of the US refining capacity; and it also supplies 90% of deepwater oil production in the Gulf of Mexico.
On Sunday, more than 95% of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico in the US was suspended, which represents about 1.74 million barrels per day. The Gulf provides about 17% of the country's oil.
Ida had also hit western Cuba on Friday night as a category 1 storm, causing some material damage and power cuts.
Scientists have warned of an increase in the number of strong cyclones as the ocean's surface warms due to global warming, posing an increasing threat to coastal communities around the world.