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FLASH ALERT: HURRICANE IDA

Jade Patel, Sam Shames, Emergency Management, Health and Hazards Team, Beatrice Fratini, Lauren Gable, NORTHCOM Team

Week of: Sunday, August 29, 2021




Maps of Hurricane Ida (left) and Hurricane Katrina (right)[1]


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT for the developing Hurricane Ida that has already made landfall in Louisiana. Gulf Coast Authorities have issued a warning that Hurricane Ida is expected to have winds up to 150mph and bring heavy rains that are likely to lead to flash flooding along and through the Louisiana shorelines. Voluntary and mandatory evacuations began on Friday, notably in New Orleans, of those who are predicted to be in the immediate impact area, with emergency responders working to alleviate the predicted outcome. The next 24 hours are crucial and will be closely monitored for all developments.


CTG is on HIGH alert from the forecasted consequences of Hurricane Ida that is on track to hit Louisiana and surrounding states within the next 24 hours. Evacuations and emergency preparedness strategies are being deployed to reduce the destruction expected. A hurricane warning has been issued for areas from Intracoastal City to Pearl River, Louisiana. Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and New Orleans are included. The coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama is in danger of life-threatening storm surge flooding.[2] With extremely high winds and a high probability of catastrophic damage lasting months, the Category 4 hurricane is on the verge of becoming a Category 5 storm in the coming hours.


On the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s touchdown in New Orleans, Louisiana, Hurricane Ida is expected to hit the same region at a strong Category 4. In preparation for the expected catastrophic impacts of the storm, officials have evacuated high risk areas of Louisiana and disaster preparedness organizations are working to deploy responders and set up emergency evacuation shelters in surrounding states between Texas and Florida. In addition to the short and long term impacts of the 150mph winds and flash flooding, public health experts warn that this event and its aftermath will further hinder COVID-19 response and treatment in the states that are already struggling the most against the Delta Variant. With a large number of casualties predicted, it is essential that residents of Louisiana take evacuation orders seriously, and emergency response organizations across the US work to deploy responders to affected areas.

Emergency Management

A warning from the Gulf Coast Authorities of an extremely dangerous hurricane that is heading for the US has prompted Louisiana to execute voluntary and mandatory evacuations throughout New Orleans and surrounding areas that are predicted to have immediate impact. In response, the Biden Administration has deployed 500 emergency responders sent to Texas and Louisiana to assist with emergency preparedness ahead of the storm, and provide support to evacuees. Supplies have been staged in nearby states that are readily deployable to the affected areas. It is likely that evacuation orders will become stricter as Hurricane Ida approaches in efforts to preserve life and reduce casualties. It is unclear at this time as to where the evacuees are being stationed, but emergency shelters have been set up to ensure people have access to basic essentials. With communities being evacuated, the emergency responders are likely placing evacuees in the closet, but safest place outside of the predicted incident zone.


Social media platforms are being used to advocate safety advice and have provided checklists and visual materials on how to increase safety, including evacuation of pets. Other posts on social media show those who are in impacted areas reinforcing their homes with anchors, likely to reduce the risk of damage and infrastructure collapse. Using social media as an emergency management tool allows a great deal of people and is very likely to encourage citizens of Louisiana to remain prepared and offer support to those who will likely be affected by the outcomes of Hurricane Ida.


Heavy Winds

Hurricane Ida is expected to be one of the strongest hurricanes to hit Louisiana since at least the 1850s, bringing upwards of 150mph winds, torrential downpours, and the possibility for isolated tornadoes.[3] Winds reaching these speeds will almost certainly result in infrastructure damage, tree uprootings, and damage to homes.[4] When Hurricane Ida reaches the Louisiana coast, these high winds are highly likely to uproot and move trees, damaging roads, buildings, and electrical entities in their path. This is highly likely to cause widespread power outages lasting weeks or months, impeding communications through damage to phone towers, preventing cell phones from being able to make emergency calls, and cutting electricity to homes and businesses.


At roughly 80mph, anchored mobile homes can be severely damaged, and roofs of other buildings can be ripped off.[5] With Hurricane Ida expected to exceed those winds, it is highly possible for infrastructure damage to take place. It is likely that many homes in the path of the hurricane will become damaged, making unsafe and unstable buildings, creating countless injuries and possible deaths if people are sheltered in those buildings. Roads are also highly likely to be damaged by the high winds, as asphalt can be ripped up from the ground. This is likely to cause major delays in emergency response and rescue initiatives. Isolated tornadoes are likely to form as the storm hits land.[6] Usually tornadoes associated with hurricanes are short-lived, they add to the devastating aftermath of the storm overall.[7] The high winds of the tornadoes can rip up roads, pick up singles from roofs, knock people over, and damage homes and buildings. With debris flying in the air, the possibility of a person getting hit is likely. Flying pieces of asphalt and heavy materials can be thrown on top of or into houses and knock down power lines. These types of damages are highly likely to delay response time for emergency responders and increase the risk of trapping people in dangerous conditions.


Flash Flooding

Heavy rains cast by Hurricane Ida are extremely likely to result in flash flooding throughout Louisiana, and has the potential to spread to surrounding areas. Along with being a health risk, high velocity of water is likely to accelerate destruction of roads, infrastructures and everything in its path, likely impacting emergency management, response and causing further damage. The impact of flash flooding is likely to cause serious injuries, and increase the fatality rate of those who did not evacuate and emergency workers. Large amounts of stagnant water is also likely to give rise to waterborne diseases. Hurricane Ida is traveling across bodies of water which is likely to disturb the ocean. Although unlikely, this has the potential of creating a tsunami warning, alongside the adverse weather.


COVID-19

With the Delta Variant ravaging many Southern US states, 84% of Louisiana’s ICU beds are currently in use, and 68% of all hospital beds are occupied.[8] While hospitals have been preparing to face the impacts of Hurricane Ida by increasing staff and stockpiling necessary supplies, it is highly likely that the storm presents a long-term obstacle to hospital care. With flooding and high winds expected to down power lines, trees, roads, and other infrastructure, there will be a high number of individuals requiring emergency care. However, these obstacles will make it difficult for emergency services to rescue these victims and transport them to nearby hospitals, making it highly likely that their conditions will worsen by the time they reach the hospital. As a result, hospitals will have to shuffle patients around to prioritize those who are in the most critical condition, with some patients expected to be turned away due to lack of space and resources.


Additionally, mass evacuations present an opportunity for super-spreader events, especially since only about 40% of the population is fully vaccinated. Hospitals in the vicinity of emergency shelters should be on high alert for a large influx of evacuees infected by COVID-19. With testing and vaccine sites also shut down in Louisiana, those seeking these services will have to travel long distances to reach them. However, this may be extremely difficult or even impossible with the extreme high winds, flooding, and resultant damage. Additionally, those who have only received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine may miss the window to get their second dose. While researchers are still investigating the impacts of delayed secondary inoculations, full immunity offers better protection against the virus. Nearby states with emergency shelters should consider increasing testing and vaccination capacity to accommodate the expected influx of evacuees who have experienced conditions prime for virus transmission. Overall, the immediate and long-term impacts of Hurricane Ida are expected to increase cases and deaths in states between Texas and Florida where evacuees are seeking shelter. It is particularly concerning that these states are at increased risk as their low rates of vaccination have already proven to be detrimental in the face of the Delta Variant. Public health experts have been warning of the emergence of a vaccine resistant variant, and the events leading up to and following Hurricane Ida may create conditions that accelerate its development.


Immediate Implications

As a Category 4 storm, the hurricane is expected to be more damaging than hurricane Katrina when it makes landfall. Katrina was a Category 3 storm when it made landfall 16 years ago, in the exact area where Ida is expected to hit. With much of metropolitan New Orleans located under sea level, flooding is almost certain to occur. Areas around the Mississippi River have a potential storm surge flooding of 9 feet.[9] Clogged coastal highway traffic with people trying to escape the hurricane makes individuals stuck in cars vulnerable to possible flash flooding events. In these circumstances, the hurricane is likely to cause fatalities. Moreover, as Ida approaches, all flights are canceled at airports in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and neighboring areas.[10] Disruption to port operations is also certain to occur, causing severe losses and delays to cargo transportations arriving and departing from major ports located in the area. With several petrochemical plants and refineries located on the Louisiana coast, there is a high likelihood of severe ecological implications to the area. With severe flooding impacting the area, toxic chemicals are likely to be spread throughout the region, possibly killing animals and causing health damage to humans.


CTG recommends that those remaining in impact areas are immediately evacuated to a place of safety and stay there until deemed safe by officials. It also recommended that people do not travel to Louisiana, and avoid surrounding states as the storm continues to intensify. Citizens of Louisiana and those in the surrounding areas must remain alert and follow guidance from emergency responders to ensure they are staying safe. For more detailed information, such as a Threat Assessment report, or more tailored reports to specific threats, contact us at info@counterterrorismgroup.com.


CTG assesses that the current threat climate is HIGH from Category 4 storm impacts as a result of Hurricane Ida, with Louisiana expected to experience simultaneous hazards as high winds and heavy rains converge. As a result, the region will experience immediate and long-term economic and public health impacts that could require years of recovery. Unless evacuations occur in a timely manner, there is a high probability that flash flooding and heavy winds will result in a large number of fatalities. Heavy disruptions to traffic are almost certain to delay emergency operations, making it harder to secure vulnerable areas and rescue individuals in danger.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is a unit of the global risk consulting and security firm Paladin 7. CTG proactively searches for and analyzes the threat of terrorism that comes from International Terrorist Organizations, Domestic Terrorist Organizations, and Individuals determined to inflict terror upon societies, organizations, and individuals. Our international and national security professionals set up protective measures to detect, deter, and prevent, discourage, and dissuade any terrorist organization or individual from attacking organizations and individuals. We work to protect our clients from any terrorist threat or attack. We also work proactively with the proper authorities to find those in terrorist organizations and individuals who will cause harm and assist in bringing them to justice and mitigating the threat long-term.

[1]800 AM CDT #Ida Update: Hurricane-force winds occurring over portions of southeastern Louisiana. Estimated minimum central pressure now down to 930 mb (27.46 inches) http://hurricanes.gov” by NHC_Atlantic licensed under Public Domain; “Hurricane Katrina Arrives” by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center licensed under Creative Commons

[2] Hurricane Ida strengthens into Category 4 storm as it nears Gulf Coast landfall, CNN, August 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/29/weather/hurricane-ida-sunday/index.html

[3] Ida intensifies into 'dangerous' Category 4 hurricane, NBC News, August 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/ida-intensifies-dangerous-category-4-hurricane-n1277868

[4] SEVERE WEATHER 101: Damaging Winds Basics, The National Severe Storm Laboratory, August 2021, https://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/wind/

[5] Ibid

[6] Remnants of Ida to bring possible flooding rains, spin-up tornadoes late Monday night through Tuesday, WKRN News August 2021, https://www.wkrn.com/news/remnants-of-ida-to-bring-possible-flooding-rains-spin-up-tornadoes-monday-night-tuesday-tuesday-night/

[7] Ibid

[8] 84 Percent of Louisiana ICU Beds Already Full From COVID as Hurricane Ida Threatens, Newsweek, August 2021, https://www.newsweek.com/84-percent-louisiana-icu-beds-already-full-covid-hurricane-ida-threatens-1624012

[9] Hurricane Ida forecast to strengthen as it nears Louisiana, Associated Press, August 2021, https://apnews.com/article/health-environment-and-nature-louisiana-coronavirus-pandemic-hurricanes-8870fde4261f7a3171205d9b018ee7c4

[10] As Ida moves closer, flights canceled at airports including Lafayette, KATC3, August 2021, https://www.katc.com/news/covering-louisiana/as-ida-moves-closer-flights-canceled-at-airports-including-lafayette

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