(CNN) – Last year’s hurricane season devastated parts of Louisiana relentlessly.
In August 2020, Hurricane Laura made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4, causing a “catastrophic” storm with up to 5 meters of water above ground level. The storm killed dozens of people in the state and inflicted $ 17.5 billion in damage. Two months later, Hurricane Zeta, Category 3, left half a million people without power and caused damage by a value of US $ 1,250 million.
In all, five named storms impacted Louisiana in 2020. While the state still reeling from destruction, another major hurricane is heading for the coast.
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 – this Sunday, the same date Hurricane Katrina made landfall 16 years ago.
Hurricanes are common on the Gulf Coast, but the damage expected from Ida may make Louisiana’s already devastated infrastructure apparent.
Sabarethinam Kameshwar, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Louisiana State University, said the repeated nature of hurricanes in the Gulf has taken a significant toll on people’s lives. Many Lake Charles residents whose homes were washed away by recent disasters have spent the past 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 hit back-to-back, there are multiple impacts for the people whose homes were damaged during Laura,” Kameshwar told CNN. “Many of those houses have not yet been repaired, so for people who already have their houses damaged, they could suffer more damage and [el huracán] it will make things worse. “
Roishetta Ozane, 36, a mother of six, is one of those residents.
Ozane’s family has lived in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency since back-to-back hurricanes in 2020, which were followed by a crippling winter storm and severe flooding. She used to live in subsidized housing that has yet to be rebuilt, and as a single mother, she can’t afford an apartment big enough to house a family of seven.
“We are on the first anniversary of Hurricane Laura, having to flee from another storm,” Ozane told CNN. “People are very emotional because a year later, we are still looking at the area looking the same as it did when we returned last year after the evacuation was lifted.”
Louisiana residents are now preparing for Hurricane Ida. Emergency officials have urged residents to get out of the way of the storm, which features oil and gas facilities that could also pose an environmental hazard if damaged.
On Thursday, Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency, noting that the region is still recovering from the 2020 season.
“We are not recovered. Far from it,” the governor said of the impacts of hurricanes Laura and Delta last year. “We still have businesses covered since the last (hurricane). The houses have not yet been repaired and reoccupied. Or if they are damaged to the point of needing to be demolished and removed, in many cases that has not happened either.”
Retired Lt. Gen. Russell Honoré, the widely praised former commander who led relief efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, said evacuation efforts have proven even more challenging during the pandemic. Last year, Lake Charles residents were evacuated to New Orleans, but the spread of the coronavirus prevented emergency services from using the usual large evacuation sites.
Due to low vaccination rates in the South, Honoré said the storm could exacerbate the pandemic, making emergency response difficult.
“When they leave, wherever they go, they can take more covid with them, whether they go north to Louisiana or to a hotel in Tennessee, he said.” It provides a container for the virus to spread outside of Louisiana, because people refuses to get the injections. “
Honoré said state and federal officials must evacuate people who live in mobile homes, like Ozane and his family, and those who live in low-lying areas as soon as Saturday.
Many Lake Charles residents, like Ozane, are still reeling from the destruction they faced during Laura and the extreme floods in May. Due to the cascading disasters he suffered last year, he intends to evacuate his family to Houston as soon as possible.
“It’s very scary,” he commented. “It brings so many feelings that we have not yet recovered and we have already lost everything. We have not received any supplemental funding to help us get further from where we were last year.”
Scientists say the climate crisis is making tropical cyclones worse, as ocean water and warmer air temperatures provide more fuel for storms. The recent report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that the increase in the intensity of tropical storms in the last 40 years cannot be explained solely by natural causes, and that humans are a factor that contributes to warming.
“We have good confidence that greenhouse warming increases the maximum wind intensity that tropical cyclones can reach,” Jim Kossin, senior scientist with the Climate Service, an organization that provides climate risk modeling and analysis to governments, previously told CNN. and companies. “This, in turn, allows the strongest hurricanes – which create the greatest risk by far – to get even stronger.”
Allison Wing, assistant professor of atmospheric sciences at Florida State University, said scientists have found that hurricane rains become more intense, leading to more flooding. He also noted that “compound events”, when multiple disasters occur in succession, have an increasingly significant impact.
“In addition to having hurricane after hurricane, you could have hurricane and then experience extreme flooding,” Wing told CNN. “And then you also have to worry about these things happening not just in the same place at the same time, but also within the same region or country.”
After the gulf was hit by back-to-back hurricanes and wildfires ravaged the west coast, a historic winter storm devastated Texas and parts of Louisiana. Wing said compound events, whether in the same region or country, reduce emergency resources.
“That’s something that national organizations like FEMA have to manage, how to deploy their resources on multiple threats in multiple areas,” he explained. “So this problem of compound events of all kinds of extremes is only going to become a bigger problem in the future.”
Hurricanes are driven by warm ocean water. As the planet warms, hurricanes can become more frequent and more intense. Wing noted that it is still scientifically uncertain how the number of hurricanes will evolve over time, but it is important to prepare for the many dangers that lie ahead as the climate crisis amplifies extreme weather.
Ozane, who now leads 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 generally don’t. they receive due to barriers and social inequalities.
“Southwest Louisiana will not be a climate sacrifice,” he said. “We need to make sure the federal government and everyone else haven’t forgotten about us.”