(CNN)Last year’s hurricane season devastated parts of Louisiana with no reprieve.
In August 2020, Hurricane Laura made landfall in Louisiana as a category 4, triggering a “catastrophic” storm surge of up to 18 feet above ground level. The storm killed dozens of people in the state and inflicted $17.5 billion in damage. Two months later, Hurricane Zeta, a Category 3, left half a million people without power and caused $1.25 billion in damage.In total, five named storms struck Louisiana in 2020. As the state still reels from the destruction, another significant hurricane is now barreling toward the coast. People are working to seal the openings of a damaged bar in Lake Charles, Louisiana, after Hurricane Delta made landfall as a Category 2 storm.Ida is rapidly intensifying over the Gulf of Mexico, and is expected to make landfall in Louisiana as a major hurricane — category 3 or stronger — on Sunday, the same date Hurricane Katrina made landfall 16 years ago. Hurricanes are common in the Gulf Coast, but the damage expected from Ida may throw Louisiana’s already ravaged infrastructure into stark relief. Read MoreSabarethinam Kameshwar, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Louisiana State University, said the repeat nature of hurricanes in the Gulf has taken a significant toll on people’s lives. Many Lake Charles residents whose homes were flattened by recent disasters have spent the last few months rebuilding and living in hotels or temporary shelters, he said. Some are still waiting for federal disaster aid to arrive. “As these hurricanes happen back to back, there are multiple impacts for people whose houses got damaged during Laura,” Kameshwar told CNN. “A lot of those houses have still not been fixed yet, so for people who have already damaged houses, they might have further damages and [the hurricane] will make things worse for them.”Roishetta Ozane, a 36-year-old mother of six, is one of those residents. Ozane’s family has been living in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency since 2020’s back-to-back hurricanes — which were followed by a crippling winter storm and severe flooding. She formerly lived in subsidized housing that has yet to be rebuilt, and as a single mother she cannot afford an apartment big enough to fit a family of seven. “We are on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Laura, having to run from another storm,” Ozane told CNN. “People are very emotional already because one year later, we’re still seeing the area looking like it did when we returned last year after the evacuation was lifted.” Louisiana residents are now bracing for Hurricane Ida. Emergency officials have urged residents to move out of the storm’s path, which is dotted with oil and gas facilities that could also pose environmental hazards if they are damaged. On Thursday, Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency, and noted the region is still reeling from the 2020 season.”We’re not recovered. Not by a long shot,” Edwards said at a news conference. “We still have businesses boarded up from the last [hurricane]. Homes have not yet been repaired and reoccupied. Or if they are damaged to the point where they need to be demolished and removed, in many cases that hasn’t happened either.”Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, the widely praised former commander who led relief efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, said evacuation efforts have proved even more challenging during the pandemic. Last year, Lake Charles residents were evacuated to New Orleans, but the spread of the coronavirus stopped emergency responders from using the usual large evacuation sites. Due to the South’s low vaccinate rates, Honoré said the storm could exacerbate the pandemic, making emergency response more difficult. “As they leave, wherever they leave, they can be taking more Covid with them whether they’re going to North Louisiana or a hotel in Tennessee,” he said. “It is providing a vessel for the virus to spread out of Louisiana, because people refuse to take the shots.”Honoré said state and federal officials need to evacuate people living in mobile homes, like Ozane and her family, and those in low-lying parishes as soon as Saturday. Photos: Hurricane KatrinaWater surrounds homes just east of downtown New Orleans the day after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August 2005.Hide Caption 1 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaCars sit in traffic as people flee New Orleans on August 28, 2005. The next day, Katrina made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane with winds near 127 mph.Hide Caption 2 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaStrong winds blow the roof off the Backyard Barbeque restaurant in Kenner, Louisiana, as Katrina makes landfall on August 29, 2005.Hide Caption 3 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaArnold James tries to keep his feet as a strong gust nearly blows him over in New Orleans. The roof on his home blew off, forcing him to seek shelter at the Superdome.Hide Caption 4 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaNational Guard trucks haul displaced New Orleans residents to the Superdome a day after the hurricane flooded their neighborhoods. About 25,000 evacuees were sheltered at the stadium.Hide Caption 5 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaPolice officer Terrence Gray helps Lovie Mae Allen and group of children evacuate their flooded homes in Gulfport, Mississippi.Hide Caption 6 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaA man swims by the Circle Food Store in flooded New Orleans.Hide Caption 7 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaThe hands of Shirley Ward, 40, are waterlogged after she was rescued on New Orleans’ Rocheblave Street.Hide Caption 8 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaParamedic David Mitchell examines Greg Farteberry on the roof of a destroyed home in New Orleans as Farteberry’s friend Eric Charles holds his hand. Farteberry broke his ankle during the storm and spent the night on the roof until he was rescued.Hide Caption 9 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaA New Orleans resident carries bottled water as she walks through oil-coated floodwaters downtown.Hide Caption 10 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaA mother and her children are rescued by boat in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward.Hide Caption 11 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaCoast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott D. Rady pulls a pregnant woman from her flooded New Orleans home.Hide Caption 12 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaEvelyn Turner cries alongside the body of her longtime companion, Xavier Bowie, after he died in New Orleans. Turner and Bowie decided to ride out Hurricane Katrina when they could not find a way to leave the city. Bowie, who had lung cancer, died when he ran out of oxygen. He was 57.Hide Caption 13 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaFloodwaters pour through a levee along the Inner Harbor Navigational Canal near downtown New Orleans.Hide Caption 14 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaNew Orleans police officer Mark Wilson yells at people in stores looters on Canal Street. In Katrina’s aftermath, many questioned whether some people accused of looting were just people scavenging for the supplies they needed to survive.Hide Caption 15 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaA section of the Mississippi bridge connecting Ocean Springs with Biloxi was wiped out by the storm.Hide Caption 16 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaIn this handout photo provided by the White House, President George W. Bush looks out over Katrina devastation as he rides Air Force One back to Washington, DC.Hide Caption 17 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaNew Orleans police and volunteers use boats to rescue residents from a flooded neighborhood on the east side of New Orleans.Hide Caption 18 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaCars are piled up in debris in Gulfport, Mississippi.Hide Caption 19 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaBoats travel down a flooded highway in New Orleans.Hide Caption 20 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaThe Stump family stays in their car in Biloxi, Mississippi, after their home was destroyed by Katrina.Hide Caption 21 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaNew Orleans residents are rescued by a helicopter on August 31, 2005, two days after Katrina made landfall.Hide Caption 22 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaMembers of the National Guard, standing in the foreground, watch over evacuees who took shelter at the Superdome in New Orleans. The shaft of light came from a hole in the roof of the dome.Hide Caption 23 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaFrom left, Tam Cu, Jason Jackson and Linda Bryant look for belongings from Bryant’s home, which was devastated in Biloxi, Mississippi.Hide Caption 24 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaJason Jennison, an aviation survival technician with the US Coast Guard, pulls a Katrina survivor aboard a helicopter in New Orleans.Hide Caption 25 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaResidents wait to be rescued from a rooftop in New Orleans on September 1, 2005.Hide Caption 26 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaWind and water damage to the Superdome roof created unsafe conditions, leading authorities to conduct emergency evacuations there.Hide Caption 27 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaMembers of the National Guard stand outside the Superdome as emotional evacuees await their next destination.Hide Caption 28 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaA dead body is seen in the foreground as people push a boat outside the Superdome on September 2, 2005.Hide Caption 29 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaA military helicopter makes a food and water drop near the Convention Center in New Orleans.Hide Caption 30 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaThousands of New Orleans residents gather at a evacuation staging area along Interstate 10 in Metairie, Louisiana.Hide Caption 31 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaTerri Jones tries to cool Dorthy Divic, an 89-year-old who was overheated and exhausted at the Convention Center in New Orleans.Hide Caption 32 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaThis aerial photo shows a flooded neighborhood adjacent to the 12th Street levee in New Orleans.Hide Caption 33 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaCharlene Veillon hugs her grandson Thearon Ellis after they learned that her daughter Joanna Ellis was killed during Hurricane Katrina in Waveland, Mississippi.Hide Caption 34 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaA man clings to the top of a vehicle in New Orleans before being rescued by the Coast Guard.Hide Caption 35 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaA man in the foreground looks at Katrina evacuees who received food, shelter and medical attention at the Astrodome in Houston.Hide Caption 36 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaEugene Green holds his baby, Eugene Jr., as they wait to be airlifted from a highway overpass in New Orleans on September 4, 2005.Hide Caption 37 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaLeonard Thomas cries after a SWAT team burst into the flooded New Orleans home he and his family were living in. Neighbors had reported that they were squatting in the house in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but the authorities left after his family proved they owned the house.Hide Caption 38 of 39 Photos: Hurricane KatrinaA helicopter drops sandbags to plug a levee in New Orleans on September 11, 2005.Hide Caption 39 of 39Many Lake Charles residents, like Ozane, are still reeling from the destruction they faced during Laura and the extreme flooding event in May. Because of the cascading disasters she experienced in the last year, she intends to evacuate her family to Houston as soon as possible.”It’s very scary,” she said. “It’s bringing up so many feelings that haven’t recovered yet, and we’ve already lost everything. We haven’t received any supplemental funding to help us get anywhere further than where we were last year.”Scientists say the climate crisis is making tropical cyclones worse, as warmer ocean water and air temperatures provide the storms more fuel. A recent state-of-the-science report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded the increase in tropical storm intensity the last 40 years can’t be explained by natural causes alone — and that humans are a contributing factor through global warming.”We have good confidence that greenhouse warming increases the maximum wind intensity that tropical cyclones can achieve,” Jim Kossin, senior scientist with the Climate Service, an organization that provides climate risk modeling and analytics to governments and businesses, previously told CNN. “This, in turn, allows for the strongest hurricanes — which are the ones that create the most risk by far — to become even stronger.”The aftermath of Hurricane Delta in Holly Beach, Louisiana, on Oct. 11, 2020. Delta weakened to a tropical depression as it moved inland over northeastern Louisiana, drenching an area still recovering from the onslaught of Hurricane Laura. Allison Wing, an assistant professor of atmospheric science at Florida State University, said scientists are finding the rainfall in hurricanes is getting more intense, which will lead to more flooding. She also noted that “compound events” — when several disasters strike in succession — have an increasingly significant impact. “In addition to just having one hurricane after another, you could have a hurricane and then have an extreme flooding event,” Wing told CNN. “And then you also have to worry about these things occurring not just in the same place at the same time, but also within the same region or country.”After the Gulf was pummeled by back-to-back hurricanes and wildfires were raging across the West Coast, a historic winter storm devastated Texas and parts of Louisiana. Wing said compound events, whether it’s the same region or country, stretch emergency resources thin.”That’s something that national organizations like FEMA have to manage, how to deploy their resources across multiple threats in multiple areas,” she said. “And so this issue of compound events of all types of extremes is only going to become a bigger problem going forward.”How the climate crisis is changing hurricanesHurricanes are fueled by warm ocean water. As the planet warms, hurricanes may become more frequent, as well as more intense. Wing said that it’s still scientifically uncertain how the number of hurricanes will evolve over time, but it’s important to prepare for the multiple hazards to come as the climate crisis amplifies extreme weather. Ozane, who now runs a disaster response group called The Vessel Project based in Lake Charles, said emergency management systems and disaster policies also need to be reworked, because the people who need the most assistance typically do not receive them due to barriers and social inequities.”Southwest Louisiana will not be a climate sacrifice,” she said. “We need to make sure that the federal government and everybody else have not forgotten about us.”
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