In Hot Water: Global Warming Affected Hurricane Ida



Hurricane Ida leaves a path of destroyed city signs in its wake.

Zoe Kim, Staff Writer

Sunday afternoon, Hurricane Ida hit New Orleans, leaving the city devastated. With the city flooded and without power, it is said to be the strongest hurricane in the past 165 years. For 16 hours, Ida whirled relentlessly, not weakening over land as researchers expected. Days before, Mayor LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans advised civilians to “hunker down” and to not leave their houses. Civilians were warned to not visit the hospitals or seek police or ambulance services until the storm calmed. 

The city braced itself for the worst, but it never expected this. Ida began in Port Fourchon and then in Lafourche Parish on Sunday, leaving 560,000 people without power. It will still be weeks or months until their power returns. With half of the houses severely damaged, the city has never experienced this degree of damage. Though Ida is being compared to Katrina, it is far more dangerous. As of this week, the storm has killed seven people. It was so strong that it was able to reverse the flow of the Mississippi River. Compared to other storms, Ida strengthened within hours, reaching 150 miles per hour. In one day, the hurricane grew 150 mph stronger. But why? 

Researchers accredited the warmer water to its incredible growth. Over the past 40 years, temperatures in water significantly rose, fueling these storms to grow stronger. Water around the coast was 85 degrees Fahrenheit, which led to its faster wind speeds. NOAA researcher, Chris Slocum, explained that Ida is more dangerous because it followed the warmer water.

“Ida found the perfect path across the gulf, where the warmest water is,” Slocum said. 

It has also brought more rainfall following these storms. This has been a pattern. Rainfall from Hurricane Harvey was 15% worse because of global warming. As we release more green-house gasses, hurricane and storm activity will only rise. This greatly affects people living along the Gulf Coast. While they had days to evacuate and hunker down, the next hurricanes may give them hours. When it comes to these hurricanes, the worst is yet to come with global warming. 

The federal government is reacting quickly to the effects of Hurricane Ida. President Joe Biden said to Louisiana and Mississippi that “We’re here to help you get back on your feet,” learning from our failure after Katrina. 

Biden has spoken out in support of these states, sending the National Guard to their rescue. Not sparing any expenses, the President has since said to the governors, “We’re providing any help that you’re going to need. We’re going to stand with you and the people of the Gulf as long as it takes for you to recover.” 

But it raises the question of how much this will cost. Analysts have estimated a cost of $15-20 billion for recovering damaged property, but as the storm progresses, the costs will rise significantly. Some fear it could reach up to $80 billion. It is expected for hurricane recovery expenses to be high. Hurricane Katrina cost nearly $164 billion in economic losses. But the United Nations Weather Agency reported global weather disasters create seven times more damage today than in the 1970s. 

After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans invested billions in reconstruction and hurricane and storm precautions. It built and rebuilt levees, floodwalls and floodgates after the tragedy of Katrina. These preventives withheld Ida but flooded New Orleans. It will take weeks and months to restore New Orleans to its initial state. 

We need to reassess how to approach these hurricanes. Rather than draining and rebuilding, we need to prevent these storms from becoming more damaging and occurring. Only last year, there were 30 named storms. It would be in our greatest interest to work towards halting global warming.