Governor John Bel Edwards provided an update Monday as the state begins to recovery after Hurricane Ida.
Search and rescue missions have begun in parishes that were struck hardest by the storm, beginning around 3 a.m. Monday. Many areas weren't accessible by ground until later in the day. National Guard search and rescue assets have been engaged in an area of about 29 parishes with 195 high water vehicles, 79 boats, and 34 helicopters.
More than 5,000 National Guardsmen have been activated and more are on the way, said Edwards. 13 additional states have committed to sending help.
So far, the National Guard has rescued 191 citizens and 27 pets across St. John the Baptist and Orleans Parishes. They also conducted hoist and lift operations in Laplace and Jean Lafitte.
The State Fire Marshal's Office is also leading a task force of 900 people from 15 states, with 200 more en route from New York and Massachusetts. The task force checked more than 400 homes Monday, where they found the vast majority of residents "okay and unharmed," said Edwards. A number of citizens required rescuing, and one was found with a life-threatening emergency.
Rescuers spent Monday responding to 911 calls made during the storm that they couldn't respond to then. They'll then transition to a grid search of the impacted areas.
There were some rescues made from Grand Isle, which suffered significant damage in Ida. About 40 people stayed on the island, which Edwards said was "probably not a good decision." The island was only accessible by air, but there are people on the ground now inspecting facilities. Officials are not aware of any loss of life on Grand Isle.
Three hospitals have been evacuated due to electrical/water issues or physical damage - Chabert Medical Center in Houma, Ochsner St. Anne in Raceland, and Our Lady of the Sea in Galliano. A fourth hospital is in the process of being evacuated Monday evening, Edwards said.
"An awful lot" of hospitals in LDH Regions 1, 3, and 9 are on generator power. In New Orleans, all 8 transmission lines that feed the area failed, causing hospitals to revert to generators. Edwards said it's important for those hospitals to come back up so those in ICUs and on ventilators can receive the care they need, but he said it's "too soon to say when power's going to be restored."
DOTD has 177 buses in operation and have evacuated more than 400 people from various locations in affected parishes. I-10 near Ascension Parish remain closed due to fallen trees, with portions of I-12 also blocked in multiple areas.
Edwards said 100% of COVID-19 cases on Monday were due to the Delta variant, and urged citizens to remain safe while recovering from the storm.
There are 18 water system outages, affecting more than 312,000 people and 14 boil water advisories in effect, impacting 329,000 people, Edwards said.
If there's a silver lining from Ida, Edwards said it is that the levee systems performed "extremely well." After a preliminary assessment, officials don't believe there was a single levee that was breached, though a few smaller levees were over-topped for a short time, resulting in some homes flooding.
Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority is deploying portable pumps and other assets to Lafourche, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles Parishes, along with Lafitte, Grand Isle, and Laplace.
In terms of power outages, 1.1 million homes and businesses remained without power Monday afternoon. 25,000 linemen are working to restore power and several thousand more are en route to assist. Edwards said they are coming from 22 states.
Because of these impacts, Edwards said, "If you've evacuated, now is not the time to return unless, until your parish informs you it is okay to do so." Officials say this will help put as little strain as possible on the water and electrical grids. He added to heed guidance from local officials, remain aware of any curfews in place, and not to return unless it's safe to do so.
The storm affected AT&T service throughout southeast Louisiana as well, with several police departments and other organizations unable to make or receive calls. Edwards said AT&T made "tremendous progress" in restoring service Monday afternoon. Edwards said he hadn't confirmed the information but had gotten a message from AT&T while walking into the press conference that "they believe their system is back up." The governor said the communications failures were frustrating.
President Biden granted federal funding and assistance to the region, including individual assistance and debris removal. Residents in affected parishes can register now for individual assistance. More information below:
Ida, as best officials can tell, is tied for one of the strongest hurricanes to impact the state, with extremely strong winds sustained at 150 mph for an extended period of time and reports of gusts in the 170s or 180s. The winds wreaked havoc on infrastructure and electric grids, said Edwards.
Amid the recoveries, rescues, and putting the state back together, Edwards said he believes Louisianans will get through this.
"I know the people of our state are stronger than the strongest of storms. Our spirit is unbreakable. We're going to embark on this road to recovery together," said Edwards. "Things are going to be okay. It's hard to see that today, but we are going to get through this. We've been through these times before and we're going to get through this one."
Two official deaths have been reported due to Ida, but officials believe the death count will increase because of catastrophic damages in places believed to be inhabited when damage occurred. There are often more deaths seen during a storm's recovery than during the storm itself, said Edwards.
The first death was in Prairieville, where a tree fell on a home and killed a 60-year-old man. The second was reported in New Orleans after a man drove into floodwaters near I-10.
Edwards will meet with the administrator of FEMA and the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday and plans to tour parishes affected by Ida on Wednesday.
There are "an awful lot of unknowns and more questions than answers," but Edwards had some encouraging words for those recovering from the storm.
"We know how to be good to one another, no matter what our political philosophies might be or divisions we might have about other things. When it comes to natural disasters we do see one another as brothers and sisters," he said, asking everyone to "do what you always do best. Be a good neighbor. Take care of yourself. Take care of your family. Reach out to the elderly couple next door across the road ... check on our neighbors and our families, especially those who are elderly or have special needs. Let's work together. We're going to get through this. it may not seem like it, but every single day will be a day where we take a step forward."
The briefing is below:
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