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Hurricane Ida leaves vulnerable communities in ruin

This past week, Hurricane Ida devastated communities throughout Louisiana and surrounding states, sweeping in on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Now, residents are dealing with the aftermath and the long road ahead. For many, the damage is the least of their worries as city-wide power outages threaten the health of residents. 

In New Orleans, a major transmission tower collapsed, resulting in residents of the city and surrounding western suburbs waking without power on Monday morning, the Washington Post reported.

Ida aftermath deepens the poverty gap among vulnerable communities 

As residents anxiously await power to be restored, many have been left to mourn the loss of their homes with no plan for the future. 

Carmen Girton, 43, a resident of Shady Nook Mobile Home Park in LaPlace, Louisiana, told The Washington Post that her trailer had been completely “shredded” in the storm. Girton lived there with her boyfriend, children, and two grandchildren.  

“It’s scary,” she said. “I’m so afraid. It’s devastating, having no home. We don’t know what we’re going to do. We don’t have insurance. None of us have insurance out here. We worry. What are we going to do?”

In Lafayette, Elsa Lopez, along with dozens of family members, congregated at her son’s Duson home to take shelter. Much of the family lived in mobile homes and Reynieri Castro was the only one whose home had a solid foundation, Indystar reported

Castro opened up his home with open arms, not only to the family but to the Latino community at large. “Yesterday, I was announcing that anyone who needed refuge or help, we would be available for them, supporting the Latino community,” said Castro. 

However, the Lafayette community was lucky, with much of the community being spared by Hurricane Ida. 

Still, devastation and wreckage throughout Louisiana and surrounding states will require communities to come together to support and rebuild.

Power outages leave communities vulnerable to rising heat 

Hurricane Ida

Hurricane Ida on August 29 as a powerful category 4 major hurricane. Date: 29 August 2021. Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Currently, it is estimated that power could take anywhere from seven to 10 days to be restored, according to Entergy, the region’s main energy provider. Though other areas may face longer delays as much as three weeks. Without power, residents could face health emergencies as heat rises throughout the week. 

This summer, the US has seen record-breaking temperatures, resulting in an increase in heat related illnesses and in extreme cases, death–such as the migrant farmworkers who have died working the fields recently. These cases, unfortunately, are more likely to affect low-income communities and communities of color who, historically, have been disadvantaged. Wealthier communities will be able to get by on generators or have already evacuated and relocated. Meanwhile, those who have been left behind in the aftermath face the threat of the oncoming heat.

For ethnic communities, such as Hispanics and Latinos, the statistics reveal a startling disadvantage. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, “extreme weather driven by climate change can also make the pollution burden worse for Latinos. For example, after Hurricane Harvey, the petrochemical industry reported releasing 320 tons of extra toxic pollution in Houston, nearly all of it concentrated within four miles of a neighborhood that is 98% Latino.” 

You might be interested: A world on fire: How to survive the rising heat

Additionally, Latinos are 21% more likely than whites to live in “urban heat islands.” These heat islands can be “up to 22 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than rural and suburban areas because a large portion of city surfaces are covered in pavement and concrete and lack tree cover.” 

A local weather advisory following Hurricane Ida read, “Heat is one of the most deadly weather hazards — don’t underestimate it.” 

The Washington Post reported that giving residents “access to power-charging stations, cooling stations, oxygen, and other needs” is the focus right now according to New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D).