By Geoff Pender
As the remnants of Hurricane Ida crawls through and out of Mississippi late Monday through Tuesday morning, officials said the Magnolia State mostly dodged a bullet and made plans to help devastated south Louisiana.
“We will do what Mississippians do, and step up and help,” Gov. Tate Reeves said in a press conference late Monday. But he warned that Ida, still a tropical depression, would still dump heavy rain and have gusting winds until it exits the state on Wednesday morning.
One Mississippi fatality — from an auto accident in Harrison County on I-110 — was credited to the storm, but it happened before landfall. Overall, state damage assessments have not been calculated, but the strong hurricane’s impact here was not nearly as bad as once predicted.
Mississippi Department of Transportation crews late Monday were focused on clearing roadways in southwest Mississippi, which saw some of the worst wind damage from the storm, Reeves said. The next focus of MDOT, the governor said, would turn to the Coast.
Reeves said that state and federal teams had performed 20 water rescues overnight in Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties. He said federal teams had been released to help in Louisiana, and state teams would soon do likewise as issues in Mississippi subsided.
Mississippi Emergency Management Director Stephen McRaney said damage reports had come in from eight of Mississippi’s 82 counties and so far were “relatively light, considering the magnitude of the storm.”
Storm surge along the Coast reached more than 8 feet in Hancock County and caused flooding in low-lying areas, but fell short of the 11-foot surge officials had warned Mississippi of before Ida’s landfall in Louisiana.
Some areas of Mississippi saw total rainfall of 12 inches over 24 hours, and inland areas such as McComb and Hattiesburg saw up to 6 inches over the period. Riverine flooding and tornadoes remain a threat, officials warned, even as Ida leaves the state.
At its peak, the storm knocked out power to about 144,000 households in Mississippi, McRaney said, but that number had been reduced to about 85,000 by late Monday afternoon.
By late Monday, Reeves said, 19 of the 28 shelters Mississippi opened for the storm remained open. He warned those households still without power that a heat advisory was being issued for Tuesday.
Reeves said much of U.S. Highway 90, the Coast beach highway, remained closed from Bay St. Louis to Ocean Springs on Monday evening.
Refineries and gasoline distribution sites in Pascagoula and Collins were open on Monday, and the governor said supply trucks should be rolling and preventing any shortages at stations statewide.
Earlier in the day, Reeves participated in a call with President Joe Biden, Louisiana Gov. John Bell Edwards and other federal, state and local officials to provide an update on the massive storm. The update was carried lived by national cable news channels.
Biden pledged all the resources the states needed to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Reeves told the president that the federal search and research teams that had been deployed to Mississippi had been sent to Louisiana where the need is greater. Reeves said the state and local teams could handle search and rescue in Mississippi because it was not pummeled to the extent Louisiana was.
Reeves said National Guard troops from Mississippi also were being sent to Louisiana to help. Biden expressed gratitude for those actions.