Hurricane Ida downgraded; one dead, 1 million homes without power

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Hurricane Ida was downgraded to a tropical storm early on Monday, but was still sparking dangerous tidal surges, winds and flash flooding as it moved into the US state of Mississippi.

The storm hit the neighbouring state of Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane on Sunday, with winds of up to 240 kilometres per hour (km/h). In its wake, it has left at least one person dead, millions without power and widespread damage.

Fears were high as Ida approached, coming as it did on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which savaged New Orleans and left hundreds dead. This storm struck to the west of New Orleans, but still lashed the city with strong winds and rain.

It had already been downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane overnight. But meteorologists warned that it was still packing winds of 95 km/h. It is also moving very slowly, meaning communities in its path will be subjected to extreme winds for longer periods of time.

The state of Louisiana has been hit hardest, according to the website poweroutage.us.

At least one person died and power outages hit more than 1 million customers in the United States as Ida hit the country’s south.

Around 996,000 households lost electricity in the state, while some 36,000 customers were affected in neighbouring Mississippi.

All of New Orleans lost power, the city’s emergency preparedness campaign (NOLA Ready) said, citing utility firm Entergy.

“The only power in the city is coming from generators,” NOLA Ready tweeted. Nearly 400,000 people live in New Orleans.

Entergy said the hurricane damaged all eight lines that supply the city. Repair work is ongoing but power is not expected to be restored quickly, the supplier said.

The first storm-related fatality was reported in Prairieville, south of the city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s state capital. The local sheriff’s office announced the death on Facebook, saying the victim was killed late on Sunday by a falling tree.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) had warned earlier that a hurricane of such strength usually causes catastrophic destruction on land.

Photos and videos showing massive flooding and damage from the hurricane, while local media reported homes were destroyed, streets flooded and trees and utility poles downed.

The storm ripped off parts of a hospital roof in the town of Galliano. No one was injured.

Several districts imposed a curfew to ensure residents who haven’t already left will stay in their homes in the face of extreme wind gusts and possible flooding. East Baton Rouge, where 440,000 people live, was under curfew from Sunday night to Monday morning.

The first serious signs of the storm system reached the coastal south-west of New Orleans at noon on Sunday (1600 GMT), with local media broadcasting footage of flooding and violent gusts of wind.

In advance of the storm’s landfall, US President Joe Biden authorized emergency measures for Louisiana and neighbouring Mississippi.

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