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Days after Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, energy company Entergy can’t say when New Orleans residents will get power back. In addition to the direct health harms that can come from losing AC when the heat index is over 100, the lack of power has also made it harder to fully assess how much toxic pollution was caused by the storm. One source of pollution that’s certain: the Norco, LA Shell plant in the petrochemical area known as “Cancer Alley” has been spewing dark plumes of smoke since the storm made landfall.
Why This Matters: Ida is the latest hurricane to amplify the risk of oil and gas production. The day-to-day harms people living near these facilities face are only increased by more powerful storms—made more intense by very fossil fuels processed there. Louisiana’s coastline is dotted with large industrial facilities, and the Shell plant wasn’t the only one giving off flare fires this week. Past major storms have had similar harmful impacts: Hurricane Harvey caused 40 plants to send about 5.5 million pounds of pollutants into the air. On the road to closing fossil fuel facilities down, better climate disaster planning could help save lives.
Levees, Floodwalls, Mangroves
Sixteen years after the levee system failed during Hurricane Katrina, the new storm surge protection system of pumps and seawalls passed the test during Hurricane Ida. Still, New Orleans shouldn’t be complacent about future storms. As Tulane University history professor Andy Horowitz told the AP:
“It does not mean that the lesson of Hurricane Ida is that metropolitan New Orleans has adequate hurricane protection. It means it had adequate protection against this storm surge. As the system is challenged by stronger and more frequent hurricanes, I think many experts are very concerned about the rather low level of protection that New Orleans has.”
There are also nature-based solutions to future storm impacts. Wetlands blunted Hurricane Ida’s impact by dissipating storm energy while also slowing erosion. Although the restoration work hasn’t kept pace with the land loss tied to the Mississippi River, the state has restored or created miles of marshland and barrier island.
Flooding Damage Extends Up the East Coast
As the remnants of Hurricane Ida moved north, historical flooding filled streets in the Northeast. At least 40 people have died due to the storm that came just two weeks after Henri, and it has highlighted infrastructure not ready for the changing climate. In New York City, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the entire city for the first time. A record 3.15 inches of rain fell in Central Park in a single hour, breaking the likely prior record set during Henri.
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Hurricane Nicholas hit the Texas coast yesterday as a category 1 storm, bringing heavy rains and 75 mph winds. Rapidly intensifying from a tropical storm to a hurricane before making landfall, Nicholas gained 35 mph in wind speeds in a single day. There have been six Atlantic hurricanes so […]
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer Tens of thousands have evacuated Lake Tahoe as the Caldor wildfire charges towards the resort town. The raging Caldor Fire has burned 277 square miles since it began in early August and has threatened 20,000 structures, burning 600 to the ground. The fire has stagnated at less than 20% containment. […]
By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer As now Tropical Storm Ida moves inland, Louisiana residents are surveying Sunday’s damage. More than one million people are still without power as of Monday afternoon, and 25,000 workers from 32 states have mobilized to provide relief. Officials are celebrating the success of New Orleans’ updated levee system but still lament “catastrophic damage” caused by 150 mph […]
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