“What happened in New York could happen here”: Climate change and the impact of Hurricane Ida on the WU community


Lightning strikes the sky outside Danforth University Center during a storm in 2011.

Following the devastation of Hurricane Ida in Louisiana, New York and elsewhere, students at the University of Washington reflected on its impact and pledged their support to those affected by the storm. As the country recovers from the hurricane, climate change is likely to increase the frequency and intensity of storms like Ida.

Hurricane Ida hit the Louisiana coast on August 29, causing power outages for over a million the people of southern Louisiana. The following week, Ida moved northeast, causing catastrophic flooding and killing more than 40 people in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Two weeks later, thousands of inhabitants in Louisiana are still without electricity and many question their city ​​infrastructure. Record-breaking storms in New York and Louisiana can be attributed to climate change and are likely to increase in the future.

Many University of Washington students have been affected by the far-reaching effects of the storm, and community members are eager to help where they can. Second-year student Matthew Larson grew up in New Orleans and in recent weeks has worried about his family and loved ones who still reside there.

“Luckily my family evacuated so it’s okay, but as far as the damage goes, they’ll have to fix the roof,” Larson said. “We were lucky with the way things went until no flooding, but it’s definitely the worst we’ve had since Katrina.”

Hurricane Katrina, a Category 5 hurricane, hit southern Louisiana almost exactly 16 years ago. The effects of Katrina were devastating – more than 1,800 people were killed and $ 125 billion was caused in damage. Hurricane Ida also claimed many lives and left hundreds of people homeless.

Nelle Mills, a graduate student in creative writing, lived in New Orleans and is now coordinating efforts to help those affected by the hurricane. They said the lack of power was particularly hard.

“It was really difficult because one of the main things is that there is no electricity in New Orleans right now; it’s still not fully restored and that’s almost two weeks later, ”Mills said.
“A lot of people are on dialysis or need electricity for their medications… hospitals have had to manually pump oxygen to COVID patients.”

The world has forgotten about southern Louisiana even though it is the worst affected by the storm and will continue to do so due to shoreline erosion, Mills said.

In addition to gradual loss of the Louisiana coastline, Douglas Wiens, professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, described the impact of global warming on the intensity and far-reaching effects of Hurricane Ida.

“An event like this is more likely to happen because of global warming and we know in this case that the hurricane was worse because it passed directly over very warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico,” Wiens said. . “I think that’s the hot water it went through before it landed, that hot water turns the hurricane around and makes it more intense.”

Warming oceans contributed to the record intensity of Hurricane Ida in addition to its subsequent powerful effects in the northeast. Wiens said the devastation New York experienced after Ida’s initial landing could come in St. Louis.

“What happened in New York could happen here, in fact, I remember one time probably about ten years ago when the remnants of a hurricane arrived in St. Louis and flooded university town“said Wiens.

Mills continues to organize to support those still recovering from Hurricane Ida, suggesting that donations can be particularly helpful.

“The best way for WashU students to help would definitely be to redistribute resources,” Mills said. “I really recommend the New Orleans Youth Fund because they need the money to be given directly to the students.

Although the country continues to recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Ida, Larson remained optimistic about New Orleans’ recovery. “New Orleans has come back from bad hurricanes before so I think it will be nothing,” Larson said.

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