Hardships are compounding for southeast Louisiana residents days after Hurricane Ida crushed the area: With no electricity service in dangerous heat, families are scrambling to find food and gas as supplies dwindle.
In the hard-hit city of LaPlace, west of New Orleans, Rae McMurray was one of numerous people who lined up at a free drive-through water bottle distribution site Wednesday run by Cajun Navy rescue volunteers.
Like others in LaPlace, she’s staying at home with no power or water service, anticipating it may take weeks for that to resume. She was there to get supplies for “the elderly and our friends with young people” near her – and for their sake she’ll try to stick around until utility service comes back.
“We’re the legs for people who aren’t able to get out … that’s who we do this for,” McMurray told CNN.
In the New Orleans neighborhood of Algiers, Yolanda Teague told CNN’s Brian Todd on Tuesday her family was running out of food and drink.
Teague, along with her boyfriend, eight children and two of her children’s friends, are living in a couple of rooms in their four-bedroom house after the roof collapsed into the living room. One of her children has a heart condition that makes overheating extremely dangerous for him.
Making sure he is safe is of immediate concern for Teague, as the state faces scorching heat and power outages – and the store she has access to only stayed open long enough for her family to get a few drinks.
President Joe Biden will visit Louisiana on Friday to survey storm damage and meet with state and local officials, the White House said.
Power outages persist in Louisiana
More than 977,000 homes and businesses in Louisiana and more than 37,000 in Mississippi were without power Wednesday, according to PowerOutage.US.
Some parishes have warned residents that the power outages could last at least a month as the state recovers from now-Post-Tropical Cyclone Ida, which made landfall Sunday in Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane and contributed to at least five confirmed deaths – three in Louisiana and two in Mississippi.
Another person died in Maryland after the remnants of Ida flooded an apartment complex Wednesday, according to Montgomery County officials. A 19-year-old man was found dead, but the cause of death has not been confirmed, Montgomery County Police Department spokesperson Casandra Durham told CNN.
With the stifling heat, the lack of electricity could prove life-threatening.
High temperatures will be in the 90s in southeast Louisiana and southern Mississippi on Wednesday, with heat indices – what the temperature feels like with humidity and other factors – of up to 108 degrees, the National Weather Service said.
“We’re hot. We’re tired. Everybody’s stressed out,” Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said. “We’re all in the same boat as all our citizens, as all of our rescuers, as all our roadway clearers, as all of you all in the press. So we’re asking everyone to please be patient.”
All of New Orleans was left dark by the storm. By Wednesday morning power had been restored in small portions of eastern and central New Orleans, a map from energy provider Entergy New Orleans showed.
Deanna Rodriguez, Entergy New Orleans president and CEO, said “overnight we overcame a huge hurdle,” by bringing back power to a section of New Orleans that included 11,500 customers.
That included some critical care customers such as a Veterans Affairs hospital and the New Orleans Fire Department.
But there is still a long way to go before the majority of residents have power restored, and until then, many are relying on portable generators.
Though generators can be immensely helpful for people without power, they can be harmful and even deadly if used improperly, such as operating indoors instead of outdoors.
In New Orleans, 12 people from one home – seven children and five adults – were taken to hospitals for suspected carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a portable generator, New Orleans Medical Services said Wednesday. Further details weren’t immediately released.
A large number of gas stations in Louisiana cities don’t have fuel, according to outage figures compiled by GasBuddy.
In Plaquemines Parish to the southeast of New Orleans, officials told residents they didn’t have a timeline for restoration of power service – and they were trying to restore water service.
“Due to this – supplies such as water, groceries, gasoline and medical supplies have been depleted and will not be readily available,” a news release from the parish reads.
Parish President Kirk Lepine said Wednesday a boil water advisory is in place. He pleaded for patience as water pressure continues to increase and another of the parish’s water facilities – knocked offline by floodwaters – is weeks away from being operational.
Sheriff Gerald A. Turlich Jr. said roadblocks were in place due to critical shortages and at least one person was allegedly stealing gas from other people.
“I made the call, ‘I’m gonna shut it down,’ ” the sheriff said. “If you don’t need to be here. You’re not coming in.”
Official: Stay away if you evacuated
Because of scarce supplies and uncertain timelines about utility restoration, evacuees should stay away until they’re told to come back, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser told CNN on Wednesday.
“We’re asking people: Don’t come back, and if you’ve got somewhere to get out of town, out of the heat, go do it,” Nungesser said.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said Tuesday that neither he nor utility officials are satisfied with some estimates saying it could take 30 days to restore power to places. But Edwards said he is “mindful that we just had the strongest hurricane, at least tied for the strongest, that the state has ever experienced and infrastructure has been damaged.”
Not everyone was telling people to stay away.
Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Tim Soignet said on Facebook residents could come back, but they should return during the day so they can avoid downed power lines and they should bring supplies.
“We’ve cleared roads where it’s safe enough for you to get home,” he said. “There’s not a lot of resources. You need to bring your water. You need to bring your supplies, medication.”
Soignet added people should bring generators, if they have them.
Rescues continue in areas ‘inundated with water’
Search and rescue operations still were underway Wednesday, three days after Ida made landfall.
Hundreds of people have been rescued, but crews haven’t been able to access some of the hardest-hit areas, so it’s not yet clear how many residents might be still be trapped.
Water rescues continued Tuesday in St. Tammany Parish, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, according to posts on the fire department’s Facebook page.
The area of Avery Estates “is still inundated with water,” the St. Tammany Parish Fire District said Tuesday.
Photos show several rescuers loading at least one resident into a high-water vehicle.
In Slidell, which is in St. Tammany Parish, the police department warned residents Tuesday that supplies in the area are limited and “there is no relief in sight.”
“We are not trying to be pessimistic, but this is the reality right now,” the Slidell Police Department said in a Facebook post.
Police urged residents who evacuated to stay away.
Ida could cause dangerous flooding in the Northeast
Ida, meanwhile, still could pose a significant threat as it moves into the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast.
The storm, which transitioned from a tropical depression to a post-tropical cyclone late Wednesday morning, could bring potentially deadly and damaging flash flooding throughout the day from the central Appalachians and parts of the mid-Atlantic to southern New York and southern New England, forecasters say.
Rainfall totals of 3 to 8 inches are possible through Thursday from the mid-Atlantic to southern New England the Weather Prediction Center said.
West Virginia declared an emergency in anticipation of the storm.
“All West Virginians need to absolutely be ready for the potential impact Ida may bring to our state,” Gov. Jim Justice tweeted Tuesday. “And please: do not endanger yourselves, your loved ones, or our first responders by trying to drive through flood waters.”
After slamming into the Gulf Coast on Sunday, Ida moved into Tennessee, parts of which were still recovering from devastating flooding just over a week ago. Areas west of Nashville received 1.5 to 2.5 inches of rain from Ida but were spared significant flooding.
CNN’s Steve Almasy, Dave Alsup, Kiely Westhoff, Ashley Killough, Ed Lavandera, Rebekah Riess, Keith Allen, Matt Egan, Kiely Westhoff, Amanda Watts, Monica Garrett, Holly Yan and Claudia Dominguez contributed to this report.