New Orleans-As Hurricane Ida strengthens in the Gulf of Mexico, it is clear that the storm will hit Louisiana on Sunday, August 29. This day is an unforgettable day for many New Orleans residents who survived Hurricane Katrina 16 years ago.
Because the level 4 Ada landed on such a notorious date, many anxious residents compared it to Katrina, one of the deadliest and most destructive hurricanes in American history. There is no doubt that Ada caused major damage to life and infrastructure in southeastern Louisiana. However, there are major differences between the two hurricanes.
The following is a close study of some of these differences and their impact on millions of victims.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina arrived in Louisiana as a Category 3 storm. This week, Ada hit the 4th category, close to the 5th category. Ada landed just 80.4 kilometers (50 miles) west of the Hurricane Katrina’s landing site, with sustained wind speeds of up to 240 km/h (150 mph). This is the fifth strongest hurricane to hit the continental United States in history. In contrast, the maximum sustained wind speed during Hurricane Katrina’s landfall was 200 km/h (125 mph).
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Before reaching the New Orleans metropolitan area, Ada’s wind weakened, but residents who remained in the city reported that their homes were blown in darkness by the terrible gusts for more than 10 hours.
“I have lived here my whole life, and Ida is the worst wind I have ever experienced. It never seems to end,” New Orleans resident Joe Frisard, who stayed until Tuesday, told the United States Voice.
Despite the higher intensity, the most welcome difference between the two hurricanes is that Ada caused much less loss of life. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,800 Americans, of whom nearly 1,600 were from Louisiana.
After Ada, four people have died so far. Two of the victims were from Mississippi, where heavy rain caused the highway to collapse. In Louisiana, two more died. One was hit by a fallen tree outside the capital Baton Rouge, while the other was a driver who drowned in New Orleans.
As officials reach remote communities, the death toll may rise, but the number will not start to approach that of Hurricane Katrina.
The size of the storm contributes to the storm surge
Although the wind during Hurricane Katrina was not as strong, the scale of the storm was much larger than that of Ada. Wind field is a term used to describe areas where storms are destructive winds. Hurricane Katrina produced dangerous tropical storm winds 370 kilometers (230 miles) from its center, and Hurricane Ida produced dangerous tropical storm winds 225.3 kilometers (140 miles) from its center.
The size of a hurricane can have a major impact on its ability to cause seawater to rise (known as storm surge). The storm surge of Hurricane Katrina peaked at approximately 8.5 meters (28 feet) and was the main cause of death and damage.
The extent of Ada’s storm surge is unclear, although it appears to be far below the level of Hurricane Katrina. However, some towns outside the New Orleans flood control system suffered devastating floods. In the west, the LaPlace suburb recently started an unfinished dike improvement project. Ida’s water poured into the town from the flooded Lake Pontchartrain, requiring some residents to climb on the roof to wait for rescue.
Successful flood protection system
Because New Orleans is surrounded by water on all sides, and most of the city is below sea level, a series of dams and pumps are needed to ensure the safety of residents. 16 years ago, the system—which was in need of improvement in the long term—was overwhelmed. The turbulent sea submerged 80% of the land in New Orleans.
However, in the years following Hurricane Katrina, the city’s flood protection system invested $14 billion. On Sunday, as the storm approached, Louisiana Governor John Bell Edwards told the media that officials were “very satisfied with the situation within the system that reduces the risk of hurricanes.”
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The system worked. The rising water from Ada is blocked by a dam, while rainwater is discharged through a pump and canal system.
But the less populated areas outside the protection system did not perform as well. Government officials and volunteer organizations such as the United Cajun Navy are still trying to rescue residents trapped in the flood water.
“Catastrophic” electrical failure
After Hurricane Katrina, almost all of New Orleans went out of power. The most notable exception is the city center around the historic French Quarter.
This time, the city was completely cut off. Entergy, a private company that supplies electricity to New Orleans, confirmed that the only electricity in the city came from generators, calling the failure a “catastrophic transmission damage.” All eight power transmission lines to the New Orleans area have been suspended, and one of the towers collapsed and partially collapsed beside the Mississippi River.
Entergy announced on Tuesday that 85,000 of the 1 million power outages have been restored, but the thousands of residents still in New Orleans are struggling to cope with the heat without electricity and gasoline. It is expected that Louisianans in the worst-hit areas may have to wait several weeks to restore electricity.
“The whole city is dying,” David Nguyen, 55, from the West Coast of New Orleans, told VOA Vietnamese Channel on Tuesday. “There is no electricity. The water is on and off. The weather is hot and the temperature exceeds 90 degrees (32 degrees Celsius), but we don’t have gasoline to keep the generator running. … If there is no gasoline tomorrow, I will have to take refuge in Florida .”
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The total loss associated with Ada will not be known for a period of time. In the New Orleans area alone, there have been a large number of reports of roofs being torn up and buildings collapsing. Some evacuees will return to their homes, looking for trees and electrical infrastructure in or near their homes.
Nevertheless, according to preliminary estimates, this loss will not be close to the US$81 billion in property damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.
For thousands of New Orleans, there is little comfort in trying to survive the extreme heat without electricity and limited supplies of food, water, and gasoline. Shops and restaurants in the area are giving away food from their weak refrigerators to prevent them from spoiling. However, unless power is restored as soon as possible, people who remain in New Orleans and its surrounding areas may face a new dangerous stage in this crisis.
The VOA Vietnamese service contributed to this article.