HOUMA, La. - Volunteers with the United Cajun Navy are helping with recovery efforts in Louisiana after Hurricane Ida tore through the state, leaving a trail of damage, millions of trapped people without power and at least two people dead.
"We have guys that are cutting their way into Houma, Louisiana right now," Todd Terrell, president of the United Cajun Navy, told FOX 26 Houston. "Because a lot of people down below Houma, Louisiana that are in desperate state."
Terell said crews have rafts, tractors and chainsaws to help rescue people from their homes.
"Getting out this morning, there’s just trees down everywhere," Terrell continued. "This is a massive storm. It was pretty widespread throughout south Louisiana."
Terrell added the nonprofit organization is soliciting donations and more volunteers through its Facebook page. The Cajun Navy is a 501(c)3 registered nonprofit organization made up of volunteers who assist with search and rescue efforts from natural disasters across the country.
"This is going to be a long recovery for the state," he said. "But right now, we’re just trying to stabilize people."
More than 1 million customers in Louisiana and Mississippi — including all of New Orleans — were left without power as Ida, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the U.S. mainland, pushed through on Sunday and early Monday before weakening into a tropical storm.
As the storm continued to make its way inland with torrential rain and shrieking winds, it was blamed for at least two deaths — a motorist who drowned in New Orleans, and a person hit by a falling tree outside Baton Rouge.
The governor’s office said over 2,200 evacuees were staying in 41 shelters as of Monday morning, a number expected to rise as people were rescued or escaped from flooded homes. Christina Stephens, a spokesperson for Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, said the state will work to move people to hotels as soon as possible so that they can keep their distance from one another.
Preliminary measurements showed Slidell, Louisiana, got at least 15.7 inches of rain, while New Orleans received nearly 14 inches, forecasters said. Other parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, Alabama and Florida got 5 to 11 inches.
The Louisiana National Guard said it activated 4,900 Guard personnel and lined up 195 high-water vehicles, 73 rescue boats and 34 helicopters. Local and state agencies were adding hundreds of more.
Jefferson Parish in suburban New Orleans knew of 500 people who said they were going to stay in areas that were flooded, and it began sending out dozens of boats, Parish Council member Deano Bonano told WWL-TV.
Ida’s 150 mph winds tied it for the fifth-strongest hurricane ever to hit the mainland. Its winds were down to 45 mph early Monday.
Forecasters said flash flooding and mudslides are possible along Ida’s path before it blows out to sea over New England on Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.