Outrage over TV segment as 'devastating' hurricane bears down

·3-min read

Hurricane Ida has blasted ashore along the coast of the US state of Louisiana, with the eye of one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the country arriving near the barrier island of Grand Isle.

The powerful category 4 storm made landfall on the same date Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi 16 years earlier, about 64 kilometres west of where Category 3 Katrina first struck land.

Arriving with a barometric pressure of 930 millibars, Ida preliminarily goes down as tied for the fifth strongest hurricane to make landfall in the United States based on wind speed. Based on central pressure it is tied for 9th strongest US landfall.

A man passes by a section of roof that was blown off of a building in the French Quarter in New Orleans by Hurricane Ida winds on Sunday (local time). Source: AP
A man passes by a section of roof that was blown off of a building in the French Quarter in New Orleans by Hurricane Ida winds on Sunday (local time). Source: AP

Ida rapidly intensified overnight as it moved through some of the warmest ocean water in the world in the northern Gulf of Mexico, its top winds grew by 72 kph to 230 kph in five hours.

As the intense weather ramped up, it wasn't enough to keep 67-year-old NBC weatherman Al Roker away who raised eyebrows with his wild and wet report from the field. 

Wearing a heavy jacket and struggling to stand at certain points, Roker was battered by heavy winds and waves as he delivered his TV cross, sparking concern for his wellbeing on social media. 

Al Roker was among the weather reporters to brave the conditions. Source: NBC/FEMA
Al Roker was among the weather reporters to brave the conditions. Source: NBC/FEMA

While some praised the fortitude of the famous TV weatherman and professed "respect" for his commitment, others called the segment "unnecessary" and chided the network for "disaster theatre".

"Stop sending reporters and Al Roker into deadly storms that people have evacuated for safety to do disaster theatre and turn people's real trauma into entertainment," tweeted science journalist Erin Biba.

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Residents begin to lose power

Earlier, US president Joe Biden warned locals to take all precautions necessary as the country has flashbacks to the devastating Hurricane Katrina which brought New Orleans to its knees during the presidency of George W Bush.

"This is going to be devastating — a devastating, a life-threatening storm," he told reporters after he was briefed by officials. 

"So please, all you folks in Mississippi and in Louisiana ... take precautions, listen, take it seriously."

Hurricane force winds started to strike Grand Isle on Sunday morning (local time). 

Before power was lost on the Louisiana barrier island, a beachfront web camera showed the ocean steadily rising as growing waves churned and palm trees whipped.

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A woman walks her dog in New Orleans as Hurricane Ida closed in. Source: Getty
A woman walks her dog in New Orleans as Hurricane Ida closed in. Source: Getty

More than 100,000 customers had lost power in Louisiana by noon and were without electricity, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks outages nationwide.

Wind tore at awnings and water began spilling out of Lake Ponchartrain in New Orleans. Officials there said Ida's swift intensification from a few thunderstorms to massive hurricane over three days left no time to organise a mandatory evacuation of its 390,000 residents.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell urged residents to leave voluntarily. Those who stayed were warned to prepare for long power outages amid sweltering heat.

with AP

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