The National Hurricane Center is monitoring a new tropical system forming over the Yucatan Peninsula that forecasters say could affect Louisiana; Sept. 4, 2021. (NOAA GOES-East image)
More than 718,000 homes and businesses in Louisiana were still without electricity Saturday, six days after Hurricane Ida made landfall, and Gov. John Bel Edwards warned the state about another tropical system currently forming in the Gulf of Mexico.
In a news conference Saturday, Edwards said his administration was briefed earlier by the National Weather Service about a tropical system forming over the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico’s Bay of Campeche. The National Hurricane Center is tracking the system, which as of Saturday afternoon, had a less than 40% chance of cyclone development over the next 48 hours.
However, the weather service is predicting the tropical system will move north toward Louisiana, possibly reaching the state by the end of next week, Edwards said.
“It is moving into the Central Gulf, and it’s going to come close to Louisiana,” Edwards said. “At this point, I’m not trying to be an alarmist. They’re not necessarily predicting that it’s going to strengthen into a hurricane, but they obviously cannot rule that out either.”
Though recovery efforts have started speeding up in Southeast Louisiana, 3,246 people were living in emergency shelters as of Saturday, areas are still saturated from Ida’s storm surge and stubborn floodwaters, and the majority of victims are still without electricity. The threat of another storm, even a relatively weak system, is reminiscent of the back-to-back hurricanes — Laura and Delta — that slammed the St. Charles area just over a month apart last year, the governor said.
“Even if it visits our area as a tropical storm, we are in no condition to receive that much rainfall,” Edwards said.
He urged residents to do everything they can to prepare and pay attention to their local officials, particularly with regards to when evacuees should plan to return home.
“And if it’s not this storm system, there certainly could be another at some point in the future,” Edwards said. “I will remind you that in the neighborhood of about 368 days, we’ve had five hurricanes make landfall in Louisiana.”
To prepare for the possibility of another storm affecting Louisiana in the near future, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness is running scenario exercises to practice responding to such an event, the governor said.
Edwards assured residents that local, state and federal authorities are doing everything they can to speed up the relief and recovery efforts. Louisiana’s entire National Guard force was activated ahead of Ida and has since been bolstered by 2,501 additional troops, both from the Regular Army and from other states’ National Guard units.
As of Saturday, the troops have setup 43 supply distribution points across 16 parishes and more will be opening Sunday. As of Friday afternoon, approximately 1.8 million meals, 95,000 tarps, 2.1 million liters of water, a quarter-million sandbags and 275,000 bags of ice have been distributed to victims in Southeast Louisiana, Edwards said.
“I know this is a difficult situation for practically everybody in Southeast Louisiana,” Edwards said. “I know that in many cases patience is wearing thin. People are hot and they’re tired…I’m asking you to be patient. I’m asking you to be good neighbors to one another, and I know that you will be. You always are.”
Anyone who believes they might need shelter are urged to call 211 or text the word “lashelter” to the number 898211.
The governor said Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services launched a new service Saturday to help people find relatives and loved ones that may have gone missing or been displaced during the storm. The service is available online at dcfs.louisiana.gov/form/dcfs-connect and by phone at (225) 342-2727.
The Army Corps of Engineers has activated its Blue Roof program that installs blue tarps on damaged rooftops. Those who believe a tarp can make their home habitable are urged to call 888-ROOF-BLU or 888-766-3258. The program is free for homeowners in the following parishes: Ascension, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, and St. Helena.
Additional parishes are being assessed for consideration into the Blue Roof program, Edwards said.
President Joe Biden has approved FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program, which offers direct financial assistance to storm victims, as well as FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program, which pays hotel expenses for residents whose homes were damaged. To apply, visit DisasterAssistance.gov or call (800) 662-FEMA. Residents in the following parishes are eligible for those programs: Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, Pointe Coupée, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Martin, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, Washington, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana.
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