Hurricane Ida hits southern Louisiana, St. Tammany is not spared | News from the community of St. Tammany


Hurricane Ida, a Category 4 storm with winds of 150 mph and a 19-foot wall of water, hit southern Louisiana on August 29, leaving behind a swathe of the most destructive wreckage in recorded history.

The storm made landfall near Port Fourchon exactly 16 years to the day when Hurricane Katrina flooded the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi. Only Hurricane Laura in 2020, Katrina in 2005 and the “last island hurricane” of 1856 had an equally devastating impact on Louisiana, and as with these storms, the recovery should be counted in months rather than in days.

Ida did not spare the parish of St. Tammany, although it destroyed several dozen coastal communities before reaching the north shore late on August 29. A gust of over 120 mph was recorded at Mandeville and a storm surge passed through the embankment of Lake Pontchartrain and flooded blocks of the historic lakeside district. Between nearly 2 feet of water covered Madisonville and roofs were ripped off in Covington, including the St. Tammany Art Association. Two days after the storm had passed, residents of the Bogue Falaya, Tchefuncte, Abita and Little Tchefuncte rivers were impatiently awaiting the flood waters of the swollen banks.

The damage was also significant in Slidell, but not as much as when Katrina flooded homes across town 16 years earlier. Low houses that were regularly flooded did so again, but felled trees were the mark of Ida’s strong winds. The eerie crackle of tree branches and their heavy trunks falling in the howling wind during the night gave way to the whine of chainsaws and the rattle of generators a day later.

Parish President Mike Cooper has instituted a parish-wide curfew, which has since been revoked, but signs of a faltering community remain. Hour-long lines for gas and other supplies were routine, if they could be found, for days after the storm. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard have set up locations to distribute food, water, ice, tarps and more to tired residents. The parish and several municipalities have issued preventive boil water advisories and a burning ban has been enacted in southeast Louisiana.

As of September 3, Cleco, Washington-St. Tammany Electric and Entergy reported that about half of their more than 130,000 church customers combined were without power.

All civil and criminal jury trials were suspended at the 22nd Judicial District Court until September, although the courthouse was scheduled to reopen on September 13.

On September 2, other helpers were on the ground. At First Baptist Church in Mandeville, volunteers in Missouri had distributed more than 500 hot meals Wednesday and were preparing to distribute 1,500 more Thursday afternoon. The King’s Church in Mandeville also distributed meals.

Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, which hopes to build a casino near Slidell, has also embarked on the hurricane response, distributing thousands of meals at relief sites set up in Slidell and Mandeville, in partnership with Louisiana Coastal Relief and Recovery.

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Utility vehicles were everywhere in St. Tammany, with crews working in bucket trucks and others reporting traffic. Washington-St. Tammany alone had 600 more people working from as far away as New York and Pennsylvania.

Also on September 2, power was restored to all hospitals in St. Tammany and 14 of the 55 public schools in the parish, Cooper said.

Superintendent of Schools Frank Jabbia told the school board at an emergency meeting on September 1 that classes would likely not resume until September 13.

Local officials were also considering issues such as debris disposal, with Cooper urging people to dump their storm debris on the sidewalk, though green waste collection is not expected to begin until the middle of this week. He said the parish hopes to complete the debris removal by the end of the month. Most municipal waste collections resumed at the end of last week, but only for ordinary household waste.

Mandeville and Covington also called emergency meetings to pass ordinances funding the cleanup efforts.

Mandeville officials met via Zoom on August 29 to allocate $ 525,000 for cleanup before Ida completed her walk through Louisiana.

Ceres Environmental was awarded a $ 250,000 contract for debris cleanup and Volkert Engineering was awarded a $ 250,000 contract for monitoring, which involves coordinating local, state and federal efforts after the large-scale cleanups, including including seeking federal reimbursement. RCL Consultants received a contract for $ 25,000 to help with the coordination.

Mandeville officials rushed to hold the meeting, knowing the town could lose power as Ida continued to move to the coast.

Covington City Council held an emergency session on September 2 to fund the turnaround.

Sara Pagones contributed to this report.

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