Hurricane Ida: Louisiana gov says first responders will not dispatch until ‘first light’ on Monday

Search and rescue crews will not be dispatched across southeastern Louisiana to address the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Ida until at least daylight Monday, Gov. John Bel Edwards confirmed late Sunday afternoon.

“Nobody should be expecting that tonight a first responder is going to be able to answer a call for help,” Edwards told The Advocate, noting crews will “be ready at first light tomorrow morning to go out to those areas that we know already have received the most damaging impacts from the storm.”

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The catastrophic Category 4 storm engulfed Port Fourchon near Grand Isle on Sunday just before noon with sustained winds of 150 mph and a 16-foot storm surge, making landfall as one of the strongest storms to hit Louisiana since the 1850s, the newspaper reported.

Ida’s 150 mph winds tied it for the fifth-strongest hurricane to ever hit the mainland U.S., and its landfall came 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina ravaged coastal Louisiana and Mississippi, The Associated Press reported.

By comparison, Katrina made landfall as a Category 3 storm with 125 mph winds and was blamed for at least 1,800 deaths, levee breaches, catastrophic flooding in New Orleans and widespread destruction along Mississippi’s gulf coast.

>> Related: Ida live updates: Powerful storm downgraded to a Category 3, still packing 125 mph winds

“We’re just getting started,” Edwards told The Advocate, noting that some levees in LaRose, lower Lafourche and St. Bernard parishes will likely experience overtopping due to the storm.

By Sunday night, an estimated 1,542 Louisiana residents had been housed in 23 shelters, with that number expected to increase dramatically after residents who evacuated learn the extent of the damage to the residences they left behind, KATC reported.

By 7 p.m. EDT Sunday, Ida had been downgraded to a strong Category 3 storm but continued to pack 125 mph winds, still categorizing it as a major hurricane roughly six hours after making landfall.

“It doesn’t help anyone to dispatch first responders on a call if you’re actually going to cause the first responder to be in a very bad situation in terms of either getting hurt or killed or just being stuck where they then have to ride it out there or you send somebody else,” Edwards told The Advocate.

Anyone still in the path of the powerful storm is advised to remain in an interior space until the threat passes, and Edwards recommended keeping a mattress nearby to protect oneself and others from falling debris, KATC reported.

“Don’t drive around and sightsee,” Edwards cautioned.

Meanwhile, nearly 5,000 Louisiana National Guard troops have been stationed across the state to assist with the storm’s aftermath, and about 185 buses will be available Monday morning for both rescue and relocation operations, the TV station reported.

According to The Advocate, the deployed guardsmen will have 195 high-water vehicles, 73 boats and 34 helicopters at their disposal to conduct search and rescue efforts across 14 parishes.

“I know it may not seem this way right now for many people out there across our state, but there is always light after darkness, and I can assure you we’re going to get through this,” Edwards told the newspaper.