Aug 30, 2021 - Podcasts

Another historic storm hits Louisiana

Hurricane Ida made landfall in Port Fourchon, Louisiana, on Sunday afternoon. Just shy of a Category Five storm, it was one of the strongest hurricanes to hit the state in recorded history. It also hit on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the state and the city of New Orleans in 2005.

  • Plus, ambulance wait times are skyrocketing.
  • And, Silicon Valley’s biggest fraud on trial.

Guests: Axios' Andrew Freedman, Marisa Fernandez, and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, and Michael Hanf. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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HOPE KING: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Monday, August 30th.

I’m Hope King, filling in for Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s how we’re making you smarter today: ambulance wait times are skyrocketing. Plus, Silicon Valley’s biggest fraud on trial.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: 16 years after Hurricane Katrina, another historic storm hits Louisiana.

Hurricane Ida made landfall in Port Fourchon Louisiana yesterday afternoon, just shy of a category five storm. It is one of the strongest hurricanes to hit the state in recorded history. It also hit on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the state and the city of New Orleans. Andrew Freedman is Axios’ climate and energy reporter. Good morning Andrew.

ANDREW FREEDMAN: Good morning Hope.

HOPE: So on Saturday night, this was a category two storm. Was it expected to intensify this quickly?

ANDREW: You know, it was. All the indications were that it would intensify potentially explosively. However, they still didn't anticipate exactly how strong it would get.

HOPE: As we mentioned, it has been 16 years now since hurricane Katrina hit the same region. So what are the major differences between Hurricane Katrina and Ida?

ANDREW: Yeah, so Katrina was a very different beast. So it actually made landfall as a slightly weaker storm than Hurricane Ida did. It also though had a bigger wind field, which meant that it moved more water. So it had a higher storm surge, which is what caused all the problems.

Since then we have seen so many hurricanes making these rapid intensification transitions, uh, leaping categories in a matter of hours. And we know that ocean waters are warming because of climate change.

So it's a combination of bad seasonal timing and longterm trends driven by human burning, a fossil fuel. And, and the irony is that the place that it made landfall. Is actually a hub of the oil and gas industry. You know, that's a major economic driver for Louisiana, we'll have to see how badly damaged it was and how long it'll take before they, get back into producing.

HOPE: Has there been a better response from government agencies this time?

ANDREW: Yeah. So FEMA was notorious, with Katrina, you know, the response was, legendarily botched. This time around, they've been very active in trying to mobilize they've sent, I think it's about 2,400 personnel down to the region. Urban search and rescue teams.

However, they've gotta be in it for the long haul. The people that are going to be most effected by this storm. It's often a poor neighborhoods minority neighborhoods that are going to suffer the most over the longterm, who people who cannot pay to immediately rebuild or move. and you know, the government needs to be there for them and needs to see them through a process that is somewhat Byzantine and bureaucratic. Uh, so we'll see how that part of the effort goes.

HOPE: Andrew Friedman is Axios has climate and energy reporter. Thank you as always.

ANDREW: Thanks for having me.

HOPE: We’ll be back in 15 seconds with why this summer’s covid surge is making ambulance wait times worse.

HOPE: Welcome back to Axios Today. I’m Hope King in for Niala Boodhoo. As COVID-19 hospitalizations rise from the Delta variant, it's not just hospitals facing a surge of patients. Ambulance companies are also struggling to get patients in the door. And in some states like Arkansas, turnaround times for ambulances have gone up 200%. Axios’ healthcare reporter Marisa Fernandez is here with us.

MARISA: Good morning.

HOPE: Marisa, why are we seeing this increase in the turnaround time?

MARISA: Hospital beds, as we all know, are scarce. And you know, what's different now than spring and summer of 2020 is, there are no staff in the hospitals for EMTS is to hand off a patient. And so they're waiting in emergency department parking lots, or even in the hallways with the patients on the gurney for an hour or even, up to three hours. And so not only is that really frustrating. But it's affecting rural areas, especially much, much harder because maybe two neighboring counties have one EMS truck to share. And so if a truck is incapacitated at the hospital, the wait times to respond are even higher. And so this is frustrating for EMTS. They are having their own staffing crisis. Some areas heavily rely on volunteer EMTS, and they are just not renewing the licenses. And so the risk is high, the frustration is high. And they are having their own sort of crisis as well in terms of how healthcare is responding to the pandemic.,

HOPE: Where in the country is this problem most acute?

MARISA: We're seeing a lot of frustration, we're seeing a lot of staffing issues in the Southeast part of the country and also the Northwest. So the Northwest, if you think about it, it's a lot of spread out. There's a lot of travel time anyways. With this, it's just getting worse and worse. And then when you think about the Southeast part of the country, there's a lot of parts in which there's just a lot of health disparities, and there's a lot of call volume that they can't get to.

HOPE: Marisa Fernandez, thank you so much.

MARISA: Thank you, Hope.

HOPE: Jury selection begins tomorrow when the criminal trial of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and former CEO of Theranos a company, which claimed it could run hundreds of blood tests from just a pinprick, Axios’ Kia Kokalitcheva calls it the biggest fraud to ever come out of Silicon Valley. She's here now to catch us up. Hi, Kia.


HOPE: So this trial has been years in the making. Can you remind us who Elizabeth Holmes is and what the accusations are?

KIA: Yeah, so Elizabeth Holmes, she founded this company named Theranos back in 2003. She is facing two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and then 10 counts of wire fraud.

HOPE: And why wire frauds specifically? From what we know, there have been many stories and accusations from investors, from customers who claimed that she was pretty misleading in what these tests and what her device could do.

KIA: Yeah, I mean, a lot of that comes down to the fact that Theranos not only defrauded patients, according to prosecutors, but also investors. And so the allegations are that Theranos made a lot of false claims to investors when it was raising subsequent rounds of funding, even things like revenue that it was generating and all of that got investors to pony up a whole lot of money over several years.

HOPE: Now you wrote this past weekend that this case will “draw a bright line between fake it till you make it and outright fraud.” So how will the case do so?

KIA: We'll see how bright it comes out based on the verdict but, in start-up world, faking it until you make it is such a, you know, foundational kind of concept, right? You want to solve a particular problem for your customers and so sometimes you're hacking together some technology that’s not as perfect as you would want it to be. And that's all very normal except in the cases where you tell patients and investors that your technology does X, and in fact, you're using other companies’ technology to do something that you're claiming you do, you know, your test results are wildly inaccurate. You know, she continues to claim that things are not as they've been portrayed to be and so I'm really curious to hear what she has to say or what her legal defense team has to say about this.

HOPE: A long-awaited trial. Kia Kokalitcheva writes the ProRata weekend newsletter. Thanks so much.

KIA: Thank you.

HOPE: One last headline we’re watching - The remains of the thirteen US service members killed at the Kabul airport arrived at Dover Air Force Base yesterday. President Biden was there as part of a dignified transfer and met with the families of those fallen.

Axios’ politics editor Glen Johnson spoke with Congressman Seth Moulton after the bombing. Moulton said this about what he saw in Kabul last week -

REP SETH MOULTON: Make no mistake: It’s the people in Washington who have made the decisions that put the Marines in this position.

HOPE: Tomorrow is Biden’s deadline to withdraw from Afghanistan -- and we’ll update you on how the evacuations carry out in the remaining hours.

That’s all we’ve got for you today! I’m Hope King - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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