Hurricane Ida: Crews in NJ, Pa. ready to help with rescue, recovery efforts

The Category 4 storm hit on the same date Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi 16 years earlier.

Monday, August 30, 2021

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Hurricane Ida blasted ashore Sunday as one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the U.S., knocking out power to all of New Orleans, blowing roofs off buildings and reversing the flow of the Mississippi River as it rushed from the Louisiana coast into one of the nation's most important industrial corridors.

Ida - a Category 4 storm - hit on the same date Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi 16 years earlier, coming ashore about 45 miles west of where Category 3 Katrina first struck land. Ida's 150-mph winds tied it for the fifth-strongest hurricane to ever hit the mainland U.S. It dropped hours later to a Category 2 storm with maximum winds of 105 mph as it crawled inland, its eye about 40 miles west-northwest of New Orleans.

Stationed roughly 80 miles away is Pennsylvania Task Force 1 Captain Ken Pagurek.

RELATED: Will Ida be worse than Katrina?

Hurricane Ida is looking eerily like a dangerous sequel to 2005's Hurricane Katrina, the costliest storm in American history.

"I can tell you that the winds and the rain are definitely starting to get cranking here where we are," Pagurek said.

Pagurek is currently with a support team while the rest of the task force is staging in Birmingham, Alabama.

"We hope for the best, prepare for the worst. We're ready to do whatever it is we can to assist; evacuate, search," said Pagurek.

Members of New Jersey Task Force 1 are also in the state ready to mobilize once conditions are safe enough to work in.

"As soon as the winds get down to our appropriate operating speeds below 45 miles an hour, we'll be able to start getting into these impacted areas," Pagurek added.

The strength and the potentially catastrophic nature of the storm is not lost on the captain and the team.

Many are aware this deployment could be a long one.

"They say there's a high probability that we're going to lose power, and cellular service in the not too distant future. So we just keep doing our work, reach out to our families and let everybody know that we're going to call them on the other side of the storm," he said.

PA Task Force 1 is one of 28 FEMA teams ready to mobilize for events like this one.