Hurricane Ida reminds us of the devastation of Katrina 16 years later
By Brad Franklin
JA Managing Editor
Publisher’s Note: In 2005, Hurricane Katrina affected hundreds of thousands of Mississippians from the Gulf Coast to the capital city. Jackson Advocate’s managing editor, Brad Franklin, takes a look back at the long lasting effects of that devastation from an eyewitness perspective.
To those that experienced the horrors of Katrina in 2005, last weekend’s forecast was an eerie omen. Tropical Storm Ida had been upgraded to a hurricane and was expected to slam into the Gulf Coast as a level 4 storm. The “what” and “how”, however, wasn’t nearly as foreboding as the “when”. When news came that Hurricane Ida was scheduled to hit land on August 29th, this author’s heart dropped. Was this some kind of cruel joke Mother Nature was playing? What are the odds that an equally destructive storm could possibly travel the exact same path that one traveled exactly 16 years ago to the day? And would the aftermath be the same?
Every year, on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, America famously remembers New Orleans. We remember the levees breaking, the flooding, the images of bodies floating in floodwaters. We remember the Superdome. We remember the 9th Ward. We remember, “George Bush don’t like Black people!” We mourned with them.
But what was lost on a majority of the country, and most major news outlets, is the fact that the eye of Katrina – ground zero – directly hit the Mississippi Coast. Biloxi, Gulfport, Pass Christian, and Moss Point were almost completely leveled. There was devastation all along Highway 49 up through Hattiesburg and Collins. It causes one to ponder if the MS Coast was the same epicenter of culture, i.e. hosting an NFL Superbowl or drawing crowds to the famous Bourbon Street, would we have gotten pushed down as fast and as many pegs in the news cycle.
Over 160 miles away, Jackson looked like a post-apocalyptic wasteland in most areas. There was no lights or gas for miles. On a personal note, my bride, then girlfriend, and I hunkered down in our apartment with a cooler full of perishables on ice and a couple of box fans. For three days, we roughed it waiting for power to be restored. When things got crucial, I remember searching for gas and driving almost to Grenada to find a station that still had a supply. That was a week I will never forget.
Hurricane Katrina is now the costliest hurricane in U.S. history, causing over 106 million dollars of damage. It spawned 62 tornados across eight different states and killed over 1,200 people. But as August 29th, 2021 approached, as Ida gained strength, we were better prepared, primed from the lessons we learned 16 years ago. We wouldn’t be caught again. This year had its special challenges, as Covid was looming and thousands of folks were testing positive for the Delta variant.
So, while we can’t control Mother Nature’s power, we can and have planned better to greatly reduce the loss of life and property during Hurricane season.
Daybreak on Tuesday painted a clear picture of the lessons we’d learned from 2005. Ida began moving through parts of Tennessee at a meager 8 mph. Communities that were hit hard by Katrina were left largely untouched. Governor Tate Reeves said on Monday that initial reports from most of Mississippi’s 82 counties were “light” considering the magnitude of the storm. Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson counties saw the worst of Ida. Lower lying areas were flooded by an 8-foot storm serge. Emergency officials had to launch multiple water rescues but there wasn’t loss of life.
Katrina made landfall as a category 3 storm. An expansive storm, it produced a record storm surge of 28 feet along the Gulf Coast. Ida was a much stronger work of nature with higher winds. New Orleans invested in an over $14 billion, 192-mile long levee system, and it held fast. Consequently, the loss of life post-Ida compared to 2005 has been like night and day. But, the storm did knock out all eight of the transmission lines that service the city leaving all of New Orleans without power. It could be a month before all of the power is restored.
In Mississippi, a state of emergency was issued over a day before Ida hit. Ports were closed and boat owners were urged to move their boats before the storm came. There was synergy between MEMA, the Department of Transportation, and local agencies. Even Comcast and AT&T were proactive in providing hot-spots that were readily accessible to Mississippians who were in need of Wi-Fi. Mississippi Power constructed a new Operations & Storm Center on higher, safer ground to increase protection of critical functions and better prepare the company to respond when storms hit. Over two million customers were without power in the days following Katrina. Currently, 86,000 customers have no electricity statewide.
Ultimately, Ida showed that you can learn and evolve after natural disasters and reduce destruction. As climate change becomes more of an issue, we’re set to see more storms, more frequently, and more powerful. But we may never see another Katrina again.
Thousands of Mississippians still without power following Hurricane Ida
By Sara DiNatale
More than 40,000 people in Mississippi were still without power Tuesday afternoon after Hurricane Ida downed electric poles across the state.
Mississippi was largely spared from the worst of the storm, which left the entire New Orleans metro area dark and several hundreds thousands of other Louisiana residents without power. Mississippi’s electric problems aren’t as severe, but thousands were still without power Tuesday without clear estimates of when electricity could be restored.
“It may take up to three days before we know how long until power will be restored,” Entergy Mississippi said in a statement to customers Monday. “While we’re assessing damage, we will continue restoring service where it is safe to do so.”
The bulk of the Mississippi outages have been reported by Entergy Mississippi and Magnolia Electric Power, a regional electrical co-op. Pike, Amite, Wilkinson, and Pearl River counties were among the most affected by large outages as of Tuesday afternoon.
Magnolia Electric told customers via social media its system had significant damage because of the storm.
“We are looking at extended outages,” Magnolia Electric told customers. “At this time, we cannot give any estimations on when power will be restored to any of the areas. We do have crews working in all areas of our outage system.”
Magnolia Electric reported it had upwards of 30 broken poles in its coverage area early Tuesday morning. In a statement to its customers, the Summit-based electric company said it expected that number to climb. It reported transmission lines to Gillsburg in Amite County were still out. More than half of that county was without power between three electric providers.
In total, Magnolia Electric reported about 17,000 of its customers still without power Tuesday. The company’s own outages from the storm have left it unable to do live updates to its outage maps. Entergy reported just over 19,500 of its own customers were without power as of Tuesday afternoon.
In a Facebook post, Entergy showed a downed tree that fell into a transmission line between Liberty and Gloster, also in Amite County.
“Our crews are repairing damage like this,” the post said, “so we can get the power flowing to the substations and then on to homes and businesses.”
Other than the southwestern Mississippi counties dealing with large outages, a 1,500-person outage was also reported in Hinds County. Smaller outages are also sprinkled throughout the state.