Hurricane Ida destroyed homes, left millions without electricity and killed at least two people. But perhaps most threateningly, the water that rushes into communities is being endangered.
Officials say a man was attacked by an alligator on Monday in some of these flooded Louisiana waters. The man’s wife witnessed the attack near the town of Slidell, which occurred just across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, said Jason Gaubert, a spokesman for the St. Tammany Fire District No. 1, opposite USA TODAY.
Gaubert said the attack had taken the man’s arm and his wife went to call for help. When she came back he was gone in the waves. The man’s body was not recovered and the officers investigated.
The St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office said the man’s wife heard a commotion outside and saw the alligator attack her 71-year-old husband, according to NBC subsidiary WDSU. She helped him pull him up some steps and out of the flood. But after he got some medical supplies and called for help, he was gone.
The frightening nature of alligator attacks in flooded communities after the storm was discussed earlier in the day.
Jefferson Congregation President Cynthia Lee Sheng noted that some wetlands have been flooded and threats to first responders and residents are real.
“This is an area with a lot of marshland, alligators and very dangerous conditions,” she told CNN on Monday, noting that first responders had to wait for daylight to examine the area and rescue anyone who needed help.
She added that floods “up to the chest. It goes to the top of the roof” have been observed in some areas.
Although the south is an estimated 5 million alligators, attacks by the reptiles during or after hurricanes are rare.
And researchers from the University of Florida told the Florida Times-Union, part of the USA TODAY Network, in 2019 that alligators usually settle in their natural habitat when a storm approaches. The reptiles have sensors that allow them to detect changes in pressure before a storm hits.
“They’re a lot smarter than humans,” said Joe Wasilewski, a UF conservation biologist who has worked with crocodiles and alligators for over 40 years, in the Times Union story. “They seek protection immediately. They have caves or caves that they call home, usually under a mud or canal, and believe me, the first thing they will do is go into those caves and caves. ”
However, researchers say alligators pose a threat after a storm, especially in areas near bodies of water. You can venture through floods into neighborhoods and communities where such reptiles are not normally seen.
“When we have a hurricane the temperature is pretty high, we get a lot, a lot of water, and when the water level rises, alligators tend to move,” said James Perran Ross, wildlife biologist at the University of Florida and an expert on alligators, said in 2019.
Alligators have been spotted in the south both during and after major storms over the years.
After Hurricane Sally hit land last year, a woman recorded a large alligator migrating through her community in Gulf Shores, Alabama, according to CBS News. And before tropical storm Eta hit Florida last year, a mammoth-sized alligator was spotted on a golf course in Naples, Florida, according to NBC News.
And it’s not just natural encounters. Approximately 250 alligators at a ranch and tour facility fled their enclosures in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina.