Hurricane Ida slammed into the Louisiana coast on Sunday, leaving in its wake widespread damage, including flooding, power outages, and at least one overrun levee.
Linda Shi, an urban environmental planner and assistant professor in city and regional planning at Cornell University, researches how cities adapt to climate change. Shi says that despite multi-billion-dollar resiliency investments in the region, the storm’s aftermath highlights just how much climate adaptation work remains. Shi says:
“Behind Hurricane Ida lies the ghost of Hurricane Katrina, raising questions about whether New Orleans and the broader region is now any better prepared for hurricanes.
“New Orleans has benefited from multi-billion-dollar investments in levee reconstruction, but not all communities have received such investments, as the emergency in Plaquemines Parish demonstrates. And while the levees are stronger, other infrastructure systems like energy utilities have not taken sufficient steps to adapt to a future of increasingly strong storms.
“Moreover, Hurricane Katrina took place without a pandemic, but more and more extreme storms will intersect with ongoing public health, climatic, and socio-economic or political crises. So, while Ida’s aftermath is not as traumatic as Katrina’s was, it nevertheless reveals just how much work remains to be done.”
Eilyan Bitar, a professor of electrical and computing engineering, researches efforts to sustainably integrate electric vehicles and renewable energy sources into the grid. Bitar says the widespread power outages caused by Ida underscores the need for decentralized and distributed energy sources such as rooftop solar and plug-in electric vehicles. Bitar says:
“Hurricane Ida provides a sobering reminder of the important role that distributed energy resources like rooftop solar generation and plug-in electric vehicles can play to increase the resilience of the power grid to catastrophic weather events.
“The decentralization of power generation across millions of distributed energy resources at the edge of the power grid would give rise to largely self-sufficient communities capable of locally generating and consuming most of their power.
“For example, when facing a power outage, your electric vehicle could serve a source of backup generation, powering your home for days. More broadly, this decentralization of the power grid would lessen the reliance on the bulk power generation and transmission system and minimize the risk of a single transmission failure taking down the entire power grid.”