More than 1 million people remained without power Tuesday in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, with sweltering heat hampering search and rescue efforts in Louisiana, where thousands remain trapped by widespread flooding.
Communities battered by the storm face the possibility of weeks without electricity, tap water and precious little gasoline — and no clear idea on when things might improve.
National Guard troops and first responders branched out in a massive search for survivors amid the devastation. Long lines formed at the few gas stations that had fuel and generator power to pump it. People cleared rotting food out of refrigerators.
Neighbors shared generators and borrowed buckets of swimming pool water to bathe or to flush toilets.
“It looks like a war zone or a bomb went off throughout the parish,” state Sen. Gary Smith told The Advocate Tuesday. “There’s no part that’s unaffected.”
Disturbing photos from the New Orleans metropolitan area showed the storm’s devastating impact on the region.
Single-family homes in LaPlace in St. John the Baptist Parish had been turned into islands, with roofs battered by Ida’s 150-mph winds and debris strewn about.
One heart-wrenching photo showed a couple pleading for help, holding a cardboard sign that read, “Homeless.
“Need help,” the sign said. “Hurricane took everything. Anything helps.”
Other images showed homes and businesses, including a bowling alley, flattened by the storm. Fallen trees and utility poles were toppled across the region.
In some areas, it could take up to one month for power to be restored, as Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards urged residents who fled their homes safely to stay away as efforts to dig out continue.
“Many of the life-supporting infrastructure elements are not present,” Edwards said at a briefing. “They’re not operating right now. The schools are not open. The businesses are not open. The hospitals are slammed. There’s not water in your home and there’s not gonna be electricity.
“So let’s get you where you can be safe and somewhat comfortable, and if you need a hospital we can get you to a hospital,” he said. “Please don’t come before they tell you that it’s time.”
Five people have been confirmed dead in Louisiana and Mississippi as the storm raged through the Southeastern US, including two who were killed when a bridge was ripped down by the storm near Lucedale, Mississippi.
Two others drowned in Louisiana and a third disappeared after being attacked by an alligator while walking through floodwaters near his home, authorities said.
The Louisiana National Guard tweeted Tuesday that 359 people and 55 pets had been rescued by boats, high-water vehicles or choppers — but many were still unreachable.
Sweltering temperatures expected to reach 106 degrees by Wednesday — which prompted a heat advisory in New Orleans — also hampered rescue efforts and left survivors of the storm scouring for scarce food and water.
“This is going to be a marathon not a sprint,” St. John Parish President Jacklyn Hotard told The Advocate. “This is going to be very difficult. Worst disaster that we’ve all seen in St. John Parish. And it’s going to take a long time.”
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantress also ordered a new curfew in the Big Easy starting at 8 p.m. Tuesday night to prevent looting — something officials said surfaced as a concern on Sunday night.
The curfew will remain in place until 6 a.m., the mayor said.
Meanwhile, Ida, which was downgraded to a tropical depression by late Monday, barrelled through the Tennessee Valley with heavy downpours.
States of emergency and flash flood warnings were announced in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina on Tuesday as the storm approached.
“I have declared a state of emergency for all 55 West Virginia counties due to the increasing threat of flash flooding and severe storms from now-Tropical Depression Ida,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said on Twitter.
Ida could also bring up to three inches of rain to the Big Apple by Wednesday night, the National Weather Service said on Tuesday.
With Post wires