Clark Street in Pass Christian, Miss. completely flooded after the torrential downpour from Hurricane Ida on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. (Hunter Dawkins/The Gazebo Gazette via AP)

Associated Press

U.S. health officials Monday declared public health emergencies for Louisiana and Mississippi, seeking to suspend government red tape that may get in the way of providing help to people affected by Hurricane Ida.

The emergency declaration by Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra puts a pause on certain payment rules and other requirements that could become an unwelcome distraction for hospitals and doctors trying to provide services under stressful conditions.

One example is a requirement that health care professionals be licensed in the state they provide care.

HHS has also staged an incident management team in Dallas to provide coordination of federal health and medical support after Ida passes through the region. Another team is providing support for people needing kidney dialysis.

People in emotional distress in affected areas can call 1-800-985-5990 for counseling help, or text TalkWithUs to 66746.

Rescuers set out in hundreds of boats and helicopters to reach people trapped by floodwaters and utility crews mobilized after a furious Hurricane Ida swamped the Louisiana coast and made a shambles of the electrical grid in the sticky, late-summer heat.

Power company officials say a giant tower that helps carry key overhead transmission lines over the Mississippi River to the New Orleans area withstood the force of Hurricane Katrina, but was destroyed by Ida.

As of Monday morning, there were more than 888,000 power outages in Louisiana, with outages expected to increase as the storm moves through Mississippi.

The U.S. Department of Energy says 96% of oil production and 94% of natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico are shut down due to Ida.

Nearly 300 maned oil platforms and drilling rigs were shut down and evacuated. At least nine oil refineries in the region have also been shuttered, representing 13% of the nation’s total refining capacity.

Several pipelines are also shut down as a precaution.

The service disruptions are not expected to immediately impact the availability of gasoline nationally, due to ample fuel reserves in the system, the department said.

The ports of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Gramercy, and Morgan City in Louisiana and the Port of Pascagoula, Mississippi are all closed. The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port has also suspended operations.

Authorities were also calculating just how much wind and rain Ida unleashed. Preliminary measurements on Monday showed a high of 15.7 inches of rain from Ida dropped in Slidell, Louisiana, through 9 a.m. local time.

New Orleans got nearly 14 inches of rain. From 5 to 11 inches of rain fell in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.