U.S. Gulf Coast authorities have issued more severe warnings as Hurricane Ida is expected to bring heavy rain, tidal surge to much of the Louisiana coastline and winds of up to 140 mph (225 km/h). (140 mph) in the area this weekend.
Forecasters said the storm could make landfall in the United States on Sunday as an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami said in an update at 7 p.m. CDT Saturday (0000 GMT Sunday) that the storm was located about 460 kilometers (285 miles) southeast of Houma, Louisiana, and had a sustained maximum. winds of 165 km/h (105 mph).
The hurricane is expected to bring “life-threatening storm surge, potentially catastrophic wind damage and torrential rain” to the northern Gulf Coast beginning Sunday morning, the NHC said.
“Ida is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane as it approaches the northern Gulf Coast on Sunday,” the agency said earlier in the day, adding that preparations for the storm should be “rushed until their term”.
“Today is over,” Jamie Rhome, acting deputy director of the NHC, also said on Saturday. “If you’re on the Louisiana-Mississippi coast, you really, really have to go, because today is all about protecting life and property.”
Authorities have issued a combination of voluntary and mandatory evacuations for cities and communities across the region, including New Orleans, where a mid-morning advisory told residents that “if you plan to evacuate, do it now”.
Traffic was heavy on westbound roads out of town early Saturday, and most gas stations in New Orleans and its suburbs were out of gas. The few still open had lines of more than a dozen cars and a wait time of almost an hour.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Saturday that Ida “is a dangerous storm, and our window to prepare is closing quickly.”
“We have a very serious situation on our hands,” Edwards said during a briefing. “This will be one of the strongest hurricanes to hit the state of Louisiana since at least the 1850s.”
Mike Laurent of Marrero, Louisiana, filled a dozen cans of gas for his generator and those belonging to friends and family. Laurent said he and his family plan to ride out the storm at home despite concerns about the ability of the levee near his home to hold. It was reinforced after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“I don’t think he’s ever been tested the way he will be tomorrow or Monday,” he told the Associated Press news agency.
“I bought a dozen life jackets, just in case,” he said. “I hope I can bring them back. I hope not to have to use them. But I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
These are the latest updates from @NWSNewOrleans. Hurricane #Ida is a dangerous storm, and our preparedness window is closing quickly. Continue to pay attention to local news and heed warnings from local authorities. #lagov #lawx pic.twitter.com/56FUc53JZc
— John Bel Edwards (@LouisianaGov) August 28, 2021
“The absolute worst place”
The storm is expected to make landfall on the exact date Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the Gulf Coast 16 years ago. But while Katrina was a Category 3 when it made landfall southwest of New Orleans, Ida is expected to reach an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane.
Hurricane Ida “is going to do more damage to industries than Katrina” because the storm’s projected path has it hitting a vital industrial corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, meteorologist Jeff Masters said.
He said Ida is expected to pass through “the absolute worst place for a hurricane.”
“It is planned to follow the industrial corridor between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, which is one of the key infrastructure regions of the United States, essential to the economy, there are hundreds of major industrial sites there down, I mean petrochemical sites, three of America’s 15 largest ports a nuclear plant,” Masters told AP.
“You will probably close the Mississippi River to barge traffic for several weeks. It’s going to do a lot of damage to the infrastructure there.
US President Joe Biden held a conference call with the governors of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, as well as federal emergency response officials, on Friday ahead of the hurricane’s expected landfall.
“They discussed the need for residents in the path of the storm to prepare now for significant impacts given the intensity of the storm and the expected precipitation and storm surge,” the White House said in a statement. press release on the meeting.
Biden said Saturday that 500 federal emergency response officers were in Texas and Louisiana responding to the storm. Aid workers have “coordinated closely with electric utilities to restore power as soon as possible,” Biden said during a briefing with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials.