LULING, La. (Dispatches) –
After a year and a half of pandemic disruptions that drove children from schools and pulled down test scores, at least 169,000 Louisiana children are out of class again, their studies derailed by the storm. The hurricane followed a rocky reopening in August that led to more COVID-19 infections and classroom closures, and now it will be weeks before some students go back again.
“How concerned am I? If you pick up a thesaurus, whatever’s the word for ‘most concerned,’” said Jarod Martin, superintendent of schools in the hard-hit Lafourche Parish, southwest of New Orleans. “We were brimming with optimism and confident that we were going to defeat COVID, confident we were on a better path. And now we’ve got another setback.”
Tara Williams’ three little boys run shirtless, because most of their clothes were swept away, and they stack milk crates beneath a blazing sun because their toys are all gone too. Their apartment is barely more than a door dangling from a frame, the roof obliterated, most everything in it lost.
A Ford Fusion is the family’s home now, and as if Hurricane Ida didn’t take enough, it has also put the boys’ education on hold.
“They’re ready to get inside, go to school, get some air conditioning,” said 32-year-old Williams, who has twin 5-year-olds and a 7-year-old and is more pessimistic than officials about when they might be back in class. “The way it’s looking like now, it’s going to be next August.”
In another incident in the U.S., a wildfire near Castaic has led to the closure of a part of a major freeway in Southern California, officials told local media.
The fire, known as the Route Fire, reached 392 acres, or a little more than half a square mile, as of 6:28 p.m. and forced the shutdown of a section of Interstate 5, the Angeles National Forest told KTLA-TV.
KTLA reported that the Route Fire is threatening structures, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Santa Clarita Valley station.
The fire was uncontained as of 6:30 p.m., authorities said.
Elsewhere in California, thunderstorms that dropped light rain gave some breathing room to crews struggling to quench the state’s massive wildfires but lightning sparked several new blazes in the drought-stricken north, fire officials said.
The storms that rolled through Thursday night into Friday were followed by weekend forecasts of clear weather and a warming trend in fire areas into next week.
The National Weather Service said there were more than 1,100 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in California between Thursday evening and Friday morning. Fire officials said lightning strikes ignited at least 17 fires.
Firefighters were diverted from the huge Caldor Fire south of Lake Tahoe to fight multiple overnight lightning fires throughout El Dorado County, fire officials said. However, most of the blazes were kept to under 10 acres (4 hectares).
Three new fires were reported in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks in steep, dense forest areas of the Sierra Nevada.
Up to a half-inch of rain fell on portions of the Dixie Fire, which began in mid-July and has burned through huge swaths of the northern Sierra Nevada and southern Cascades. The second-largest fire in California history has burned 1,490 square miles (3,859 square kilometers) of land and more than 1,300 homes and other buildings. It was 59% contained.
The rain wet tinder-dry vegetation and will cool down the fire for one or two days, which firefighters hoped to use to strengthen and expand fire lines in an effort to finally surround the blaze, fire officials said.