In the wake of Hurricane Ida’s devastation in Louisiana, New York and elsewhere, Washington University students have reflected on its impact and pledged their support for people the storm affected. As the country recovers from the hurricane, climate change is likely to increase the frequency and intensity of storms like Ida.
Hurricane Ida hit the coast of Louisiana on Aug. 29, causing power outages for over one million people in Southern Louisiana. In the following week, Ida moved northeast, causing catastrophic floods and killing more than 40 people in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Two weeks later, thousands of residents in Louisiana are still without power and many are questioning their cities’ infrastructure. The record-breaking storms in New York and Louisiana can be attributed to climate change, and are likely to increase in the future.
Many Washington University students have been affected by the storm’s far-reaching effects, and community members are eager to help where they can. Sophomore Matthew Larson grew up in New Orleans and over the past few weeks, he has been worried for his family and loved ones who still reside there.
“Luckily, my family evacuated, so they’re totally fine, but as far as damage goes they will have to fix the roof,” Larson said. “We got lucky with how things went as far as no flooding, but it’s definitely the worst one we’ve had since Katrina.”
Hurricane Katrina, a Category 5 hurricane, hit Southern Louisiana almost exactly 16 years ago. Katrina’s effects were devastating — over 1,800 people were killed and $125 billion was caused in damages. Hurricane Ida also took many lives and left hundreds homeless.
Creative Writing graduate student Nelle Mills used to live in New Orleans and now has been coordinating efforts to help those affected by the hurricane. They said that the lack of power has been particularly hard.
“It’s been really difficult because one of the main things is that there’s no electricity in New Orleans right now; that’s still not fully restored and it’s almost two weeks later,” Mills said.
“A lot of folks are on dialysis or need electricity for their medications… hospitals have had to manually pump COVID patients with oxygen.”
The world has forgotten about Southern Louisiana even though they bear the brunt of the storm and will continue to because of the erosion of the coastline, Mills said.
In addition to the gradual loss of the Louisiana coastline, Douglas Wiens, professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, described how global warming impacted the intensity and far-reaching effects of Hurricane Ida.
“An occurrence like this is more likely to happen because of global warming and we know in this case that the hurricane was worse because it went right over some very warm water in the Gulf of Mexico,” Wiens said. “I think it’s the warm water that it went over before it came to land, that warm water spins up the hurricane and makes it more intense.”
The warming of the oceans contributed to the record-breaking intensity of Hurricane Ida in addition to its subsequent powerful effects in the Northeast. Wiens said that the devastation that New York experienced after Ida’s initial landfall could happen in St. Louis.
“What happened in New York could happen here, in fact, I remember one time probably about ten years ago when the remnants of a hurricane came to St. Louis and flooded University City,” Wiens said.
Mills continues to organize to support those who are still recovering from Hurricane Ida, suggesting that donations can be especially helpful.
“The best way for WashU students to help would definitely be redistributing resources,” Mills said. “I definitely recommend the New Orleans Youth Fund because they need the money to give directly to students.”
Though the country continues to recover from Hurricane Ida’s damage, Larson remained optimistic that New Orleans will recover, “New Orleans has come back from bad hurricanes before so I think this will be nothing,” Larson said.
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