Although what is now Tropical Depression Ida made landfall on Sunday at the southern Louisiana coast as a Category 4 hurricane, the $14 billion levee systems that were strengthened after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina held, potentially saving lives.
“We don’t believe there is a single levee anywhere now that actually breached or failed. There were a few smaller levees that were overtopped to a degree for a certain period of time,” said Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards about a preliminary inspection of them, according to the Associated Press.
However, there were areas not protected by levees where there was damage. LaPlace, a New Orleans suburb whose levee is incomplete, saw floodwaters in homes, which may have come from winds, Louisiana State University professor emeritus Craig Colten told the AP.
“(Hurricane) Isaac was really a minor storm in terms of wind speed, but it did drive water into Lake Pontchartrain to the western edge, toward LaPlace, as this storm did. And that just is going to pile water up where LaPlace is,” said Colten.
Still, major flooding in areas like Plaquemines Parish and others and a major power outage for New Orleans must be dealt with. At least 800,000 people, including the entire city, were left without power on Monday evening (Aug. 30) after a transmission tower collapsed into the Mississippi River.
According to power company Entergy, it is unclear when it will be completely restored, but it could be up to three weeks for some.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast area. Still, the damage from the storm was not as bad as the damage done when the levees failed, flooding most of New Orleans and causing one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, costing 1,800 lives and causing nearly $170 billion in damage.
That was the fear among residents who had lived through the nightmarish circumstances that caused years of problems for the city.
“Just thinking about all the ‘what ifs’ and all the things we were getting ready to leave behind … which is kind of breaking my heart right now,” Tisha Seghers, a midwife who lives in suburban Metairie, told NOLA.com last week as she and her family evacuated.
Also, even though the levees held don’t necessarily mean that the New Orleans area is entirely safe from hurricane flooding.
“It means it had adequate protection against this storm surge,” Tulane University history professor Andy Horowitz told the AP. “As the system is challenged by stronger and more frequent hurricanes. I think many experts are very concerned about the rather low level of protection that New Orleans has.”
But for now, officials in charge of ensuring the area is protected from water surges like the one faced after Katrina said that the levees worked the way they were meant to work.
“All components were operational and performed as we needed them to. The system’s first real test and it did exceptionally well,” Chip Kline, chairman of the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, told NOLA.com.