At least 48 people have died in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast as a result of flooding and tornadoes associated with Post-Tropical Cyclone Ida, and the toll continues to rise. Between its category 4 landfall in Louisiana, which killed at least 13, and its rampage through the eastern U.S., Ida has taken more than 60 lives, and it appears destined to go on the books as one of the deadliest and most destructive U.S. hurricanes of the 21st century so far. It’s much too soon for anywhere close to a full accounting of damage from Ida, but a financial toll well into the double-digits of billions of dollars appears likely.
Residents of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast began to assess flood damage on Thursday under clear blue skies in the wake of Ida’s passage. As we discussed in our Thursday post, torrential rains pushed a number of rivers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to record or near-record crests, and intense rainfall rates of up to 3 inches an hour produced catastrophic flash flooding throughout the New York City area.
At least 11 deaths occurred in basement apartments where tens of thousands of New Yorkers live, sometimes without the legally mandated safety measures such as a second exit.
There was some welcome news out of Louisiana on Friday, as officials from electricity provider Entergy said that power should be restored to nearly all of the New Orleans area by Wednesday, September 8, as reported by the Associated Press. The utility is scrambling to repair more than 150 destroyed transmission structures. There was no word on when power will be restored in the parishes beyond New Orleans, where many power poles and lines were brought down and many homes were damaged or destroyed.
Shortages of fuel, water, and food kept people across Southeast Louisiana waiting in long lines and enduring stifling heat in un-air-conditioned homes on Friday, with an uncertain timeline for recovery.
Port of South Louisiana suffers damage to a key grain elevator from Ida
Hurricane Ida pounded the world’s largest bulk cargo port, the Port of South Louisiana, for over an hour Sunday night, when the hurricane was a category 3 storm with 115-120 mph winds. The port, which moved about 65% of the country’s soybean exports and 55% of corn exports in 2020, was still closed and without power Friday. The September 2 port status report said it would be “some time” before the port would be fully operational. A 65-mile stretch of the Mississippi River, from New Orleans upriver, was closed to all shipping, but the river was open from New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico, with restrictions.
According to Bloomberg, the Cargill terminal, a grain elevator at the Port of South Louisiana (located in Reserve) was damaged by Ida. This terminal was responsible for nearly 9% of America’s bulk sea-borne exports of corn, soybeans and wheat so far in 2021; shipping data showed one vessel with a status of “grounded” at the terminal after the hurricane. At least three other bulk cargo vessels were grounded by Ida; aerial photographs by NOAA earlier this week showed tugs attempting to free one of the ships, the Nord Pollux. According to Reuters, numerous barges and boats were sunk in the lower Mississippi River by Ida, and other debris has obstructed the navigation channel.
New Jersey tornado confirmed as an EF3
The NWS Storm Prediction Center logged eight tornadoes in association with Ida from Wednesday into early Thursday, including six in Maryland, one in New Jersey, and one on Cape Cod in Massachusetts at 1:30 a.m. Thursday. The most intense was a confirmed EF3 tornado —New Jersey’s first in more than 30 years —that struck just south of Philadelphia. With estimated peak winds up to 150 mph, the tornado destroyed one home in Mullica Hill and severely damaged others nearby. A dramatic Facebook video shows the experience of one Mullica Hill homeowner who rushed to their basement as the tornado struck. A confirmed EF2 twister hit Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, with top winds up to 130 mph, unroofing a number of homes in Upper Dublin and striking the Temple University Ambler Campus.
Twelve other tornadoes struck on Monday and Tuesday in association with Ida, mainly in southern Alabama well south of Ida’s center. Four people were injured by tornadoes in Mobile County on Monday.
This was the year’s second noteworthy round of tornadoes for the Philadelphia area, following an historic outbreak on July 29 that included one EF3 tornado that struck Somerton and Bensalem, Pennsylvania. In fact, the Philadelphia National Weather Service office has issued far more tornado warnings this year than any office in Oklahoma.
Although Ida’s tornadoes were highly visible and destructive, the outbreak pales in comparison to the record for hurricane-associated tornadoes. Hurricane Ivan spawned 120 tornadoes along its arcing path from Alabama to the Mid-Atlantic from Sept. 15 to 18, 2004. Ivan’s tornadoes killed seven and caused nearly $100 million in damage, in 2004 dollars.
Larry poised to become a major hurricane
Impressive Hurricane Larry appears poised to become a large and powerful major hurricane as it cruises into the central Atlantic, far from any land areas. At 11 a.m. EDT Friday, Larry was headed west-northwest at 16 mph and had top sustained winds of 90 mph. Satellite images showed that Larry was a large hurricane with impressive low-level spiral banding and improving upper-level outflow.
Larry will be in a favorable environment for strengthening over the next three days, and the National Hurricane Center and most of the top intensity models are predicting that Larry will become a major hurricane by Saturday. Early next week, Larry may encounter higher wind shear and some dry air, putting the brakes on further intensification.
Larry will be steered to the west-northwest by the Azores-Bermuda High through Saturday but is predicted to angle more to the northwest by Sunday, when the hurricane will feel the pull of a trough of low pressure passing to the north. For the time being, the long-range Euro and GFS ensembles are emphatic on an overall recurvature to the north and northeast away from North America, as a strong upper-level trough is likely to set up on the U.S. East Coast next week. However, it is possible that Larry will angle far enough northwest to affect Bermuda on Thursday, September 9, and/or Newfoundland, Canada on Friday, September 10.
Larry will churn for days as a strong hurricane in the open Atlantic, generating large swells that will bring high surf and the risk of rip currents to the U.S. East Coast, Canadian Maritime Provinces, and north-facing shores of the Caribbean islands next week. Dangerous surf conditions from Larry’s large swells will begin to affect the Lesser Antilles on Sunday.
Disturbance 91L a potential threat to the U.S. Gulf Coast next week
In the southwest Caribbean, an area of disturbed weather designated 91L was over northwestern Honduras and the adjacent waters on Friday afternoon, as seen on satellite imagery. 91L was moving west-northwest at about 5-10 mph, and proximity to land will inhibit development over the next few days. The disturbance is predicted to cross the Yucatan Peninsula and enter the southwestern Gulf of Mexico by Sunday. Though waters are warm there, 91L is expected to experience high wind shear from an upper-level trough of low pressure, making development difficult on Sunday and Monday.
Beginning on Monday, currents associated with this trough will steer 91L slowly to the northwest or north at about 5-10 mph, and it is possible that the disturbance could bring heavy rains to Texas or Louisiana as early as Tuesday. It is uncertain how much dry air and wind shear might be affecting 91L at that time, so residents of the U.S. Gulf Coast will want to monitor this system in case development occurs. In its 8 a.m. EDT Friday Tropical Weather Outlook, the National Hurricane Center gave the system 2-day and 5-day odds of development of 0% and 30%, respectively. The next name on the Atlantic list of storms is Mindy.
Disturbance off the coast of Africa not expected to develop
An area of low pressure located about 150 miles southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands on Friday morning was moving west at 15 mph. Satellite imagery indicated that the disturbance was no longer showing signs of organization and had lost most of its heavy thunderstorms. High wind shear caused by the upper-level outflow from Hurricane Larry was likely responsible for weakening the disturbance. This system has low model support for development, and in an 8 a.m. EDT Friday Tropical Weather Outlook, the National Hurricane Center gave 2-day and 5-day odds of development of 0%.
How to help hurricane recovery efforts
The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies (formerly portlight.org), co-founded by members of the Weather Underground community, is responding to the Hurricane Ida disaster. Also, the Weather Channel has put together a list of many excellent charities that will be active in Hurricane Ida recovery.
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