Five Dead in Ida Storm: One Man Killed by a Louisiana Alligator Its Believed

Published August 31st, 2021 - 10:30 GMT
Hurricane Ida death toll rises to five
A man and his stepson walk through water in Saint Rose, Louisiana, on August 30, 2021 after Hurricane Ida made landfall. Powerful Hurricane Ida battered the southern US state of Louisiana, leaving at least one dead and knocking out power for more than a million people, including the whole of New Orleans. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP)
Highlights
Several instances of looting have been reported in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Ida on Monday

The Hurricane Ida death toll rose to five late on Monday after a 71-year-old man was thought to have been killed by an alligator in Louisiana, while a Mississippi highway collapse killed two people and injured ten others.

The alligator attack took place in the man's shed in the town of Slidell in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, according to WWL-TV, citing the man's wife who called the police. The victim's body has not been found.  

Meanwhile, pictures from the scene of the highway collapse showed two badly damaged vehicles in a large hole which the road had fallen into, with officials saying both lanes of Highway 26, found west of Lucedale, had collapsed as a result of storm damage.

The news of the three deaths comes as New Orleans was hit by looters amid fears crime could spiral in the city after officials warned it could be without power for up to three weeks.

Louisiana communities battered by Hurricane Ida have begun the massive task of clearing debris and repairing damage - the full extent of which is currently unknown - in the stifling late-summer heat and without power.

To add to the state's woes, while hospitals largely escaped catastrophic damage from the hurricane, the storm created the 'perfect petri dish' for spread of the coronavirus, officials said on Monday.

The weather disaster hit a state where hospitals are already crowded with COVID patients, cases of the Delta variant were surging and nurses were in short supply. Louisiana is currently averaging 2,713 new Covid-19 cases a day, along with 55 daily deaths.

A handful of smaller hospitals have been forced to evacuate patients, while all major regional hospitals were doing fine for now in terms of damage, Dr. Joseph Kanter, the top medical official in Louisiana, said.

'Outside of a few, small outlying hospitals, it doesn't appear to be anything catastrophic,' said Kanter, who worked through Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when some two dozen hospitals in New Orleans had to be evacuated.

The alligator death and the two deaths on Highway 26 add to the two that had already been reported as a result of the storm. The 71-year-old man was reportedly killed by the alligator when the animal bit off his arm as he waded through flood waters caused by the hurricane. 

Earlier, New Orleans' mayor announced that the death toll from the storm had risen to two after a driver drowned in their vehicle in the city. On Sunday, a 60-year-old man died when a tree fell on a home just outside Baton Rouge. Authorities have not released any information about the identities of the victims. 

Mayor LaToya Cantrell said at a press conference on Monday that the city is cracking down on looting and all offenders will be charged with a state felony. She said: 'My directive has been very clear: lock 'em up. We will not tolerate and we have not tolerated it.'

Her comments came after a group of men were caught by a drone camera trying to rob an ATM machine in the scorched remains of a market in the New Orleans neighborhood of St. Claude.  

In another incident, witnesses used their cell phone to record several people looting a store in New Orleans East. 

Looters often take advantage of disasters like Ida and New Orleans is all too familiar with this as it became a hotbed of criminal activity in the wake of Hurricane Katrina 16 years ago. 

Police Chief Shaun Ferguson added that the department deployed a group of 'anti-looting' officers and is working with the Louisiana National Guard to protect businesses from looters. 

Ida made landfall in Louisiana on Sunday, becoming the fifth most powerful hurricane to strike the United States. 

The hurricane center has warned the storm may still dump as much as 8 inches of rain in central Mississippi through Tuesday, and it could trigger flash flooding in parts of the Tennessee Valley, the Ohio Valley and the Mid-Atlantic later in the week.

Speaking on Monday, Louisiana resident Theophilus Charles described the previous night when Ida hit the gulf coast and tore through the state, destroying his home.

'I ain't got a dry spot in the house,' he said, choking up. 'My roof fell, I lost all my clothes, my furniture, my appliances, everything.'

'I was born here. We went through all the major hurricanes here. So I figure, I'll stay here and ride this one out,' Charles told Reuters on Monday. Lying in the front room, he saw the roof blow off and felt the whole house shaking. He hopes never to have to endure another hurricane again.

Meanwhile, it was learned on Monday that a storied New Orleans jazz site where a young Louis Armstrong once worked toppled when Ida blew through Louisiana.

The Karnofsky Tailor Shop, where a Jewish family employed Armstrong, collapsed Sunday in storm.

Armstrong would play a small tin horn as he worked on the coal and junk wagons, according to the National Park Service.

The business opened downtown in 1913 and had a residence above it where the late jazz legend would often eat meals. The family, who provided Armstrong a 'second home,' lent him money to buy his first cornet.

'Louis said it was the Karnofskys that instilled the love of singing in his heart,' jazz historian and retired photojournalist John McCusker said, according to WWL-TV. 

WDSU-TV reported early on Tuesday that the Mississippi Highway Patrol, emergency personnel and rescue teams responded to Highway 26 in George County, about 60 miles northeast of Biloxi, to find both the east and westbound lanes collapsed, troopers confirmed.

Cpl. Cal Robertson with the Mississippi Highway Patrol said the collapse is around 50 to 60 feet (15 to 18 meters) in length and 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters) deep.

Robertson said seven vehicles were involved in the incident and that, 'some of these cars are stacked on top of each other.' Cranes will be needed to get the cars out of the hole, he said.

Robertson believes the torrential amount of rain may have caused the roadway to collapse, adding that drivers may not have seen the roadway in front of them was impassable. 

The identities and conditions of the of those involved in the accident have not yet been released. 

More fatalities were expected as the true extent of the damage caused by the hurricane is revealed, Governor John Bel Edwards told reporters on Monday as Ida grinded north as a tropical storm. 

The National Hurricane Center said Ida's maximum sustained winds had dropped to 35 mph by Monday afternoon as the storm's remnants churned northwest of Jackson, Mississippi.

Virtually no one in Louisiana has electricity and many water systems are also out, Edwards said. Energy company Entergy Corp said customers in the hardest-hit areas could experience power outages for weeks.

Ida arrived 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina, one of the most catastrophic and deadly U.S. storms on record, struck the Gulf Coast, and about a year after the last Category 4 hurricane, Laura, battered Louisiana.

President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in the state, ordering federal assistance to bolster recovery efforts.

Rescue crews in St. John the Baptist Parish reported that 800 people were rescued as internet and communications services began to come back online, though officials said that 18,000 residents in the parish remained without power as of late Monday. 

Accuweather's Dr. Joel N. Myers said on Monday that the total economic damage caused by Ida will likely fall between $70billion and $80billion. 

Mississippi's governor, Tate Reeves, said that 20 water rescues were staged in three counties on Monday. In total, some 85,000 Mississippians were without power as of late Monday. 

In Alabama, at least three people were injured after an unconfirmed tornado believed to have been whipped up by feeder bands from Ida struck homes in Saraland, according to AL.com. Several buildings along US 43 suffered damage, and none of the victims sustained life-threatening injuries. 

During Monday's press conference, Mayor Cantrell noted that looting is nowhere near as bad as it may seem, stating, 'there is no widespread looting going on in the city of New Orleans. 

'What we do have that's widespread are residents who are being neighbors, who are understand and exhibiting the spirit of humility, of empathy, who are cleaning up their lawns and who are servicing their community. That's widespread in the city of New Orleans, that's who we are.'

Nevertheless, the city has already made 'several arrests' involving looters, Ferguson said and urged residents to report looting when they see it. 

'It is also incumbent upon the community to lean in and lean forward and say this is not the time,' he said. 'Right now we are going through some trying times and we need to really pull ourselves through this together.'

So far, at least one person was taken into custody for looting the Dollar General in New Orleans East. 

CBS News reporter Beau Zimmer posted the photos from the scene on Twitter, which revealed the interior of the trashed store and the parking lot outside littered by overturned shopping carts with merchandise spilling out of them.

It is not clear if the pair from the drone video were apprehended or got away with any cash from the ATM machine they are seen in the footage trying to pry open. 

One of the men in the video is seen toying with the machine. Another stands beside him and sees the drone before turning his back and leaving the destroyed business.

The video, which was posted to Twitter by WXChasing (Brandon Clement), has yielded 19,100 views and is captioned, 'The moment looters realize a drone is watching them try to break into an ATM [machine] in burned down St. Claude market in the lower 9th ward.'

The New Orleans Fire Department also posted several photos of the market in St. Claude after it had burned down in the aftermath of the storm, but did not explain what caused the fire and if the business owners were there when it happened. 

Local residents will have to contend with the lack of electricity. With high temperatures expected to remain in the mid-80s for the foreseeable future, residents won't have access to air conditioning. 

Entergy Louisiana officials said on Monday it may take days for utility crews to determine the extent of the damage to New Orleans' power grid and even longer to restore power to the area, with Bloomberg reporting that repairs could take until late September to complete.  

'We have a lot of rebuilding ahead of us,' the company wrote on Twitter. 'We'll be better prepared to give restoration estimates once assessments are done.'

By 7 a.m., the company said more than 888,000 people were without power in Louisiana after Hurricane Ida snapped cables, damaged buildings, uprooted trees and spread debris.

More than 11,000 Entergy workers, supplemented by 25,000 workers from at least 32 states and the District of Columbia, were working to restore power. 

As officials begin to assess damage, power will restored in a way that gets service to the greatest number of customers as safely and quickly as possible, Entergy said. 

Pamela Mitchell said Monday she was thinking about leaving New Orleans until power returned, but her 14-year-old daughter, Michelle, was determined to stay and was preparing to clean out the fridge and put perishables in an ice chest.

Mitchell had already spent a hot and frightening night at home while Ida's winds shrieked, and she thought the family could tough it out.

'We went a week before, with Zeta,' she said, recalling an outage during the hurricane that hit the city last fall.

Other residents of the city were relying on generators - or neighbors who had them. Hank Fanberg said both of his neighbors had offered him access to their generators. He also had a plan for food.

 

'I have a gas grill and charcoal grill,' he said.

The hurricane blew ashore on the 16th anniversary of Katrina, the 2005 storm that breached New Orleans' levees, devastated the city and was blamed for 1,800 deaths.

This time, New Orleans escaped the catastrophic flooding some had feared. But city officials still urged people who evacuated to stay away for at least a couple of days because of the lack of power and fuel.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued emergency fuel waivers for Louisiana and Mississippi, effective immediately, on Monday night. It will end on Sept. 16.

Some places were also dealing with water problems. Eighteen water systems were out, impacting more than 312,000 people, and an additional 14 systems affecting another 329,000 people were under boil water advisories, Edwards said Monday.

The hurricane twisted and collapsed a giant tower that carries key transmission lines over the Mississippi River to the New Orleans area, causing widespread outages, Entergy and local authorities said. The power company said more than 2,000 miles of transmission lines were out of service, along with 216 substations. The tower had survived Katrina.

The storm also flattened utility poles, toppled trees onto power lines and caused transformers to explode. 

On Monday morning, 216 substations, 207 transmission lines and more than 2,000 miles of transmission lines were down. 

Footage of a store being looted in NOLA was captured by a drone photographer on Monday, with locals filmed rifling through an ATM and taking drinks. That has sparked fears the city could be hit by a crime spiral during its prolonged darkness. 

Meanwhile, the Sewer and Water Board of New Orleans said most, if not all of its 84 sewage pumping stations were without power. It was relying on generators to keep pumps working to drain the storm water out of the city and bring drinking water in. 

The damage from Hurricane Ida is still being assessed and President Joe Biden recently warned that the death toll - which currently stands at two people - will rise as the human cost of the storm that ravaged the state began to emerge.

Speaking on a conference call to governors affected by the extreme weather event Monday, the president warned he expected the number of people found dead as a result of Ida to rise considerably. 

Biden echoed Edwards. Speaking on MSNBC on Monday, the governor warned that more bad news lies ahead as search and rescue efforts continued in the wake of Sunday's Category 4 hurricane. 

He said: 'I don't want to mislead anyone. Robust search and rescue is happening right now and I fully expect that that death count will go up considerably throughout the day.' 

Later on Monday, Edwards said the state's focus after Hurricane Ida continues to be centered on search and rescue, to make sure all the hardest-hit areas are checked multiple times.

'Saving lives is the number one priority,' he said.

'Those search and rescue efforts are going to continue all day, and quite frankly for as long as necessary.'

The governor said the Louisiana National Guard alone rescued 191 people across St. John the Baptist, Jefferson and Orleans parishes by boat, helicopter and high-water vehicle.

More than 5,000 Guard soldiers are working on the disaster response, and more soldiers are expected from other states within days.

Edwards said the state will soon be transitioning into a 'grid search' of the hardest hit areas, going to search every single home on each street to determine if anyone is home and needing assistance. 

'Then, to make sure that we've adequately covered the area, we'll go back and do a secondary search,' he said.

'But what we did mostly to date today was try to catch up on the 911 calls.

'So we were actively partnered with local authorities and going out and doing search and rescue at individual addresses where we know people had called for help.' 

Biden also urged Edwards to 'just holler' for help after Hurricane Ida ravaged the state.

'We're providing any help that you're going to need,' the president told Louisiana and Mississippi mayors and governors during a conference call Monday afternoon as Ida made its way north.

He said the federal government has sent 200 generators to the area as one million people remain without power in the wake of the hurricane. 

The president added that he has asked the Federal Aviation Administration to authorize the use of drones to assess Ida's damage to energy infrastructure. 

Biden said he has also ordered the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security to make available any satellite imagery that could help assess the extent of the damage. 

Additionally, he said, he is activating cooperative cellphone access so that if one cellphone carrier loses service, their customers in the area can temporarily switch to another cellphone carrier. That came after AT&T announced its network had gone down for 40 per cent of customers in Louisiana, which, combined with power shortages for 1 million people, made life a nightmare for hard-hit residents trying to make emergency calls or work from home. 

'We're going to stand with you and the people of the Gulf as long as it takes you to recover,' Biden told the local elected official, saying 'we're providing any help that you may need.'

'Folks get knocked down, we're there to help you get back on your feet,' Biden said before telling Edwards directly: 'If there's anything else you need, you know just call, just holler.'

Biden's conference call later sparked controversy after he used the word 'boy' to describe his senior adviser Cedric Richmond, who is black.

The president faced casual racism allegations over the remark, which saw him say: 'I'm here with my senior adviser and boy who knows Louisiana very, very well and New Orleans, Cedric Richmond 

His remarks come after Ida left 1.043 million people without power in Louisiana and another 115,000 in the same situation in Mississippi as it dumped torrential rain on the area, flooding much of New Orleans before being downgraded to a tropical storm Monday. 

One person, a 60-year-old man, has been confirmed dead. He has not been named and was killed after a tree fell on his home in Prairieville, Louisiana, on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the human cost of Ida began to emerge on Monday, after a famed New Orleans tailor shop where jazz legend Louis Armstrong once lived was among buildings destroyed.

Karnofsky Tailor Shop and Residence, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was reduced to a pile of bricks and rubble by Ida.  

It started out as a tailor shop in 1913, and Armstrong 'worked for the Karnofskys on their coal and junk wagons, tooting 'a small tin horn' and ate meals with the family,' who eventually gave him money for his first concert.

'Louis said it was the Karnofskys that instilled the love of singing in his heart,' John McCusker, a retired journalist who supported the efforts to get the store historically landmarked, told WWL.

The Karnofsys' son, Morris, would go on to open the first jazz record store in town and the Register of Historic Places says, 'Armstrong visited his friend and musician buddies at the store on his many return trips to the city.'

Another apartment building in Kenner, Louisiana burned overnight after the storm struck it.

And Dartanian Stovall was pictured distraught outside his home in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Monday after it was destroyed by the storm while he was renovating it.

He said the chimney fell first, and the rest of the house followed.

Fortunately, he managed to crawl to safety. Stovall, who was pictured surveying the wreckage of his home with his hands clasped to his head, said: 'At least I'm alive,' as he surveyed the damage on Monday.  

Cynthia Lee Cheng - mayor of Jefferson Parish - also outlined the horror faced by some of her neighbors currently trapped in attics in the trashed town of Lafitte.

She said: 'This is an area if you want to think of it like swampland, there's alligators out there.

Door-to-door searches are currently underway in Jefferson County, using boats in badly-flooded areas. Louisiana has also activated 5,000 National Guard members.

Stream gauge reports continued to show rapid rises near the stream, and a flash flood emergency for Alliance continued Monday morning due to levee failure near Highway 23.

The National Weather Service warned these are extremely dangerous and life-threatening situations. 

'Do not attempt to travel unless you are fleeing an area subject to flooding or under an evacuation order.' 

Anyone needing emergency help was urged to go to their nearest fire station or approach their nearest officer. 

Some people also took to social media to post their addresses and locations, asking for help, with officials promising rescue efforts would begin in the early morning hours of Monday, as it moved into Mississippi. 

In a Sunday news conference, Edwards said rescue crews would not be able to immediately help those who were stranded, and warned the state could see weeks of recovery.

'Many, many people are going to be tested in ways that we can only imagine today,' he said, but added: 'There is always light after darkness, and I can assure you we are going to get through this.'  

Rescue operations began around 3 a.m. Monday, the governor said in his interview with MSNBC, with 900 search and rescue personnel from 16 different states assisting with the efforts as some residents continue to shelter on the second-floors of their homes or in their attics. 

Matthew Marchetti, a spokesman for Houston-based nonprofit Crowdsource Rescue, said the group had rescued about 150 people out of the 1,000 reports it received in Louisiana.

The group currently has three teams operating in LaPlace and are en route to Lafitte in hopes of assisting rescue efforts there. But, he told CNN, that is going to be difficult.

'Lafitte is a bit of a technical challenge,' he said, calling it a 'long boat ride because of road issues.'  

Crews Monday morning assessed the damage from the storm. 

'Unfortunately, the worst case scenario seems to have happened,' Louisiana's Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee said, adding that some houses are flooded with water that's 'beyond chest high. It's up to the top of the roof.'

The weather conditions and power outages made it tough for teams to work overnight.

'This is an area that has a lot of swampland, alligators, very dangerous conditions. They had to wait for the sun to come up this morning. They had a strategy,' Lee explained to CNN. 

'We have people out there ready to clear roads. We're going to have boats, high-water vehicles. Our first responders are ready to go. They just needed the daylight to be able to do their best work.' 

She called for a mandatory curfew for all of the parish from 6am on Monday through at least 6am on Tuesday. All residents are urged to stay off the roads during this time.

The storm slammed the barrier island of Grand Isle and blew off the roofs of buildings around Port Fourchon as it made landfall early Sunday morning and churned its way through the southern Louisiana wetlands, over the state's petrochemical corridor, threatening  more than 2 million people living in and around New Orleans and Baton Rouge on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Many did not have enough money or resources to flee from the fast-approaching storm, which wreaked havoc in its wake and left many buildings destroyed. 

By late Sunday, significant flooding was reported in LaPlace and in places like LaFitte, where a barge struck a swinging bridge.

The United States Coast Guard office in the region received more than a dozen reports of breakaway barges, Petty Officer Gabriel Wisdom told the Associated Press.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality was also in contact with more than 1,500 oil refineries, chemical plants and other petrochemical plants, and will respond to any reported pollution leaks or petroleum spills, agency spokesman Greg Langley said. 

 And on Monday, LaFourche Parish officials said re-entry into the area will be delayed for up to a week 'due to conditions created by Hurricane Ida,' saying in a news release: 'LaFourche Parish roads are currently unpassable and will be for some time.'

Officials said first responders will be 'working around the clock to clear the roads for residents to return,' as a curfew remains in affect.

The area is also under a boil water advisory, the officials said, with many residents completely without water.

And in Sidell, Louisiana, Mayor Greg Comer said, there is flooding in 'every neighborhood in town,' and local officials had to deploy boats to conduct water rescues on Monday.

'In about a three-hour period, we had probably a five to six foot rise in the bayou and the lake estuary system that pushed water into a number of people's homes on the south side of our community,' he explained.

'We had to deploy boats at 4:00 this morning and do water rescues,' he told CNN, noting they had already taken 15 people off their roofs in these water rescues.

Some people also waded out into waist-deep water to flag down police officers, Comer said, 'and we were able to get in there and find these folks, but it has been a pretty long morning for our first responders, our police officers and some of our firemen.'

He now hopes to have power back to the region in three to five days 'which would be much, much quicker than the two weeks it took after Katrina.' 

But the worst of it, he fears, may not be over.

'As the storm goes north and the winds shift out of a southeasterly direction to a southwesterly direction, it'll start taking and pushing all the water that's in [Lake Pontchartrain] and it begins to stack up on our side of the lake, and we'll see another rise in water, we think, this afternoon.'  

The storm's top wind speed on Monday was 60 mph, and forecasters expect it will weaken drastically as it dumps rain on Mississippi. 

It was centered about 65 miles south-southwest of Jackson, Mississippi this morning, heading north at 8 mph with sustained winds of 45 mph.

It is expected to bring strong winds throughout the day, which could knock out the power for even more residents.

A tornado risk will also continue to the east of the center of circulation, according to FOX News, and heavy rain is going to be the biggest concern as the remnants move into the Mid-South, Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast in the coming days.

Three to six inches of rain is expected along Ida's path, including through southern New England, where the ground is already saturated from Tropical Storm Henri one week ago.  

This article has been adapted from its original source.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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