Ida: Louisiana braces for impact as evacuations continue

Evacuations continue and more than 2,000 FEMA personnel are deployed as the gulf coast braces for Hurricane Ida, a category 4 storm -- on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the most devastating storm in America’s history. NewsHour Correspondent Roby Chavez joins from New Orleans, Louisiana, which is expected to be one of the hardest hit cities.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    NewsHour Correspondent Roby Chavez is in New Orleans and he joined us this afternoon with more on the hurricane and what is ahead over the coming days.

    Roby, tell me, how is New Orleans preparing?

  • Roby Chavez:

    Well, Hari, it's going to be a long night. The hurricane made landfall about 11 o'clock this morning. And officials expect this to be a very significant event causing catastrophic damage. Currently here outside, you can see the wind is already blowing. We've had some gusts up to 74 miles an hour. And the storm is still a bit a ways away.

    In south Louisiana where they're taking a big hit, officials there told folks hug your kids, say a prayer and hunker down. This storm is coming. We expect this to be the most powerful storm since the 1850s. We did see a lot of rapid intensification with this storm overnight. We saw it increased 45 miles per hour. Keep in mind, on Friday, this was a cat one with 74 miles per hour. It is now onshore with 150 miles per hour as a cat four.

    Officials are expecting flash flooding, catastrophic winds and a powerful storm surge. Governor John Bell Edwards has declared a state of emergency and he's activated some 5,000 members of the National Guard. Down in south Louisiana, there's a mandatory evacuation that is in place in the coastal parishes in the Lafourche, Terrebonne and St. Charles. But officials tell us at least 50% of those residents decided to ride this storm out, even though they warned this would be a life altering storm, Hari.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    I know you've got relatives in that area. What is the reason that some of those folks decide not to leave when these hurricanes come by?

  • Roby Chavez:

    You know, they're a proud people, you know, my dad, my sister, my brothers and sisters are all down there. I grew up in Lafourche Parish, right where this storm is coming up, BIA Lafourche. And sometimes it's just hard to get them to move. They love their houses. They love their livelihood. If something is going to happen, they want to be there. I will say it's been a long time since we've seen a storm of this magnitude hit this area in southeast Louisiana, Betsy, back in 1965. So no one has seen a storm quite like this. They think they may have underestimated it.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And this is a city that is in some ways still recovering from the damage that Katrina did 16 years ago to the day.

  • Roby Chavez:

    So keep in mind, New Orleans is about 50 miles from the coast, but we will get some hurricane force winds. As you know, Hurricane Katrina, this is the 16th anniversary of there's a lot of anxiety with folks about this approaching storm, PTSD, if you will, worried that this will be catastrophic as well. During Katrina, as you remember, the levees failed since Katrina. They've spent some $40 billion to repair the levees. This will be the first big test to see whether or not that works or not. Now, officials say they do expect some overtopping because of the huge storm surge that is expected, but they do believe that will be just enough to be able to pump that water out, it doesn't cause massive flooding.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Roby, so how are you planning to get through this storm? How long is it expected to last? And what kind of damage are officials telling you to prepare for?

  • Roby Chavez:

    Look, Hari, how this storm will be a big event. It's going to last some 18 hours, well into the night, not clearing until Monday morning. Officials have said to expect power outages, large, massive power outages that could last anywhere from a week, and they're even talking about possibly as long as a month. Now, these winds are very damaging as well. The ground has been very saturated here. So we expect that there will also be a lot of storm damage.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    NewsHour's Roby Chavez joining us from New Orleans tonight. Thanks so much.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Absolutely.

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