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Death toll from Ida rises to 4, New Orleans urges evacuees not to return until further notice

Nearly a million without power in Louisiana
Hurricane Ida
Posted at 5:25 AM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-31 12:56:31-04

Two days after Ida made landfall as a terrifying major hurricane, the death toll from the system risen to at least four, and roughly a million customers remain without power in Louisiana.

Fatalities from Ida grew from two to four overnight when torrential rains washed away a highway in George County, Mississippi, NBC News and the Washington Post report. Seven cars were involved when a 50-foot stretch of Highway 26 near Biloxi collapsed. Ten people were injured.

The other confirmed fatalities occurred in Louisiana. On Monday, the Louisiana Department of Health reported that a man drowned while attempting to drive through floodwaters. Another person was killed in Ascension Parish on Sunday by a falling tree.

More than a million people remain without power in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. According to electricity utility Entergy, the vast majority of those people are in Louisiana, where 895,000 customers remain without power.

Entergy said that it began assessing damage on Monday, but the process could take several days because many areas are still inaccessible by road.

"This will be a marathon, not a sprint," Entergy New Orleans president and CEO Deanna Rodriguez said. "We're working as safely and quickly as we can, but recovery will vary depending on the damage incurred and its location. We must all be prepared for the recovery to take some time."

The Associated Press reports that some officials are warning that it could take weeks before electricity is restored in some parts of Louisiana.

The City of New Orleans' emergency preparedness office urged city residents not to return from evacuation sites "until further notice."

That was a message Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards pushed during a press briefing on Tuesday.

"If you have already evacuated, do not return here or elsewhere in Southeast Louisiana until the Office of Emergency Preparedness tells you it is ready to receive you," Edwards said. "The schools are not open, businesses are not open, the hospitals are slammed, there's not water in your home, and there's not going to be electricity. So let's get you where you can be safe and somewhat comfortable."

President Joe Biden has granted Edwards' request for disaster assistance. During Monday's briefing, Biden noted that 25,000 members of debris crews from 30 states were headed to Louisiana to assist in cleaning up the storm damage. He also noted that more than 5,000 national guard members from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas had been activated.

"We're providing any help for you that you're doing to need," Biden said.

As for the storm itself, Ida, now a tropical depression, will continue to move northeast, dumping anywhere from two to four inches of rain in parts of Tennessee, Kentucky and southern Ohio in the coming days. Western Maryland and southern Pennsylvania could see anywhere from four to 10 inches of rain through the rest of the week.