New Orleans avoids major flooding thanks to levees

JOHN BEL EDWARDS: "Our levee systems really did perform extremely well."

Officials in Louisiana breathed a sigh of relief Monday as a $14.5 billion system of levees, flood gates and pumps worked as designed and stood up against a lashing from Hurricane Ida, passing a major stress test and sparing New Orleans from the catastrophic flooding seen 16 years ago in the wake of Katrina.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards:

EDWARDS: "We don't believe there was a single levee anywhere now that actually breached, that failed. There were a few smaller levees that were overtopped to some degree and for some duration of time, and that did result in some people's homes being flooded. But they did not fail. They overtopped in a few areas."

Still, more than 1 million homes in Louisiana remained without power as night fell on Monday, as rescue operations in flooded communities around New Orleans continued.

THEOPHILUS CHARLES: "Everything in here is messed up."

Many residents, including 70-year-old Theophilus Charles of Houma, Louisiana, say they've lost everything.

CHARLES: "I ain't got a dry spot in the house. My roof fell, I lost all my clothes, my furniture, my appliances, everything. Right now I've got nothing."

Although Ida weakened over land to a tropical depression it still threatened to generate tornadoes in Louisiana and storm surge warnings remained in place for Mississippi and Alabama.

JOE BIDEN: "We're about as prepared as we could be for the early stage of this and there's a lot more to do."

President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in Louisiana and said FEMA sent 3,600 of its personnel to the storm-devastated area.

EDWARDS: "We're still in search and rescue mode..."

Officials Monday evening confirmed a second storm-related death and Governor Edwards said more fatalities were expected in his state.

EDWARDS: "I would be surprised but, obviously, very pleasantly surprised if the confirmed death toll doesn't go up considerably over the next couple of days."

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