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Hurricane Ida: The Aftermath of One of the Most Powerful Storms in U.S. History

September 2, 2021 Leave a comment DRI Admin

The fifth most powerful hurricane to hit the U.S., the brunt of Ida has left Louisiana in dire straits, pummeled the rest of the east coast, and could spell supply chain trouble for businesses throughout the rest of the country.

Days after Ida made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane, roughly a million homes and businesses are still without power, and more than 600,000 people lack running water. Fuel shortages are also reported – nearly a third of fuel stations in the state were either out of gasoline or could not distribute it as of Wednesday afternoon. Though the damages are still being calculated, the ultimate cost could exceed more than $50 billion.

Many eyes were on the flood protection system built around New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. None of the barriers suffered a structural failure, while the pumps that were designed to move water out of the city worked as planned thanks to generator power.

But the fact that much of the city is without power despite these investments is also a sign of the limits of preparation against extreme weather events made even stronger by climate change. Daniel Kaniewski, who was in charge of resilience at FEMA until 2020, told the New York Times that the post-Katrina work focused primarily on preventing a repeat of that storm’s floods – not on rethinking the region’s infrastructure for the future.

Days after the initial storm hit Louisiana and Mississippi, its remnants made its way up the east coast, deluging areas in torrential downpours, floods, power outages, and travel shutdowns. New York City’s subway system saw feet of water pouring underground; Philadelphia’s Route 676 resembled a river in the middle of Center City; and New Jersey saw tornadoes form and tear through homes.

The rest of the country is on track to feel the lingering effects of the storm as well in the form of supply chain disruptions. Much like the disruptions to the region during the Texas winter storms earlier in the year, oil plants and refineries had to shut down operations ahead of Ida, which could further limit availability related products that were already in short supply.

The Port of New Orleans also represents a critical link in the food chain – agricultural products make up about 65% of its exports. And trucks and drivers – already in short supply due to the pandemic – will be even more limited as they’re redirected to haul relief supplies and provide other emergency services.

DRI International urges resilience professionals to be prepared. Our recent webinar “Weatherproofing your Business Continuity Program” touches on severe weather events and how to prepare for these emergencies and minimize impacts.

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