The Atlantic Daily: Why Hurricane Ida Caught America Off Guard

Hurricane Ida gave little warning before slamming into the Louisiana coast. Future hurricanes could do the same.

A woman looks over damage to a neighborhood caused by Hurricane Ida on August 30, 2021, in Kenner, Louisiana.
Scott Olson / Getty

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Afghanistan

The last American military flight departed from Kabul a day ahead of President Joe Biden’s withdrawal deadline, bringing two decades of U.S. presence in Afghanistan to a close.

The president has been criticized for his handling of the evacuation, particularly the U.S.’s treatment of Afghan allies attempting to escape Taliban rule. But one writer argues that Biden deserves credit, not blame, for the events of the past two weeks.


Hurricane Ida

Blink and you might’ve missed it. In just a few days, a hurricane formed and made devastating landfall in Louisiana, leaving at least one person dead (though that toll is expected to rise) and more than a million without power. Hurricane Ida, currently making its way north, has now weakened to a tropical depression.

My colleague Robinson Meyer explores the hurricane’s remarkably fast escalation. Some researchers believe that such rapid intensification is becoming more common, he reports.

“If major hurricanes can form in less than 72 hours, but local governments need more than 72 hours to prepare and evacuate, then we’re running up against the physical limits of hurricane preparedness,” Rob writes.


The rest of the news in three sentences:

(1) The European Union encouraged its members to block unvaccinated Americans from traveling there. (2) Thousands of Californians were ordered to evacuate as the Caldor Fire bears down on South Lake Tahoe. (3) China maintains its lead in the medal count at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.


One question, answered: Are rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests as accurate as PCR tests done in a lab?

Katherine J. Wu looks at the science in her latest:

Researchers have long known that rapid antigen tests, although convenient, sacrifice some accuracy for their art. Compared with PCR-based laboratory tests, they’re not very good at rooting out the coronavirus when it’s present in low amounts … Trials run by test makers show that when antigen tests are taken in the first few days after someone’s symptoms start, their results can match up with those of PCR tests more than 80 percent of the time, though data collected by independent research groups have often produced slightly less stellar results. When antigen tests are used in people who feel healthy, however, their performance tends to take a nosedive.

Frequent at-home testing can help make up the gap, Katie writes. But even then, tests should be used in combination with other pandemic precautions.


Tonight’s Atlantic-approved activity:

Tour colorful American landscapes from your couch with this brilliant photo gallery.

A break from the news:

His parents tried to create an off-the-grid homestead. Years later, his family returned to the property as Airbnb guests.


Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox.