Hurricane Ida strengthens into Category 4 storm as it approaches the Gulf Coast


The storm is located 65 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River, NHC forecasters said in an update at 6 a.m. ET, continuing its march northwest toward Louisiana and the coast. from the gulf at 15 mph.

The hurricane has rapidly increased in intensity since hitting Cuba on Friday, threatening to be an “extremely dangerous major hurricane” when it hits the Louisiana coast on Sunday afternoon.

Ida gained 35 mph with a sustained wind speed in just six hours, the NHC said.

“Ida is on the verge of strengthening further and based on recent satellite imagery, it appears that strengthening is imminent,” the NHC said earlier.

Outer bands of the storm are already moving toward the Gulf of Mexico coast, affecting southeastern Louisiana, including New Orleans. A Southwest Pass weather station reported a sustained wind of 60 mph and a gust to 74 mph early in the morning.

A hurricane warning remains in effect from Intracoastal City, Louisiana to the mouth of the Pearl River and includes Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and New Orleans.

There is also a danger of potentially fatal storm surge flooding on Sunday in areas along the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coasts.

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The impacts of precipitation, winds and storm surges will extend far from the center of the storm, the NHC said, and warnings have been issued to residents who have felt the effects of major storms both during the last year and historically.

If Ida makes landfall in Louisiana as expected, it would be the fourth hurricane to hit the state since last August and the third major hurricane in Louisiana during this. time lapse.

A Sunday strike would also fall on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landing on the Gulf Coast, which killed more than 1,800 people in the region.

“August 29 is an important date in history here,” Collin Arnold, director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, told CNN on Saturday. “A lot of people remember what happened 16 years ago. It’s time to squat tonight and be where you need to be.”

Schools and casinos closed, flights canceled

Officials across the state pleaded with people to evacuate, with some issuing binding orders to do so.

Arnold urged people to stock up on enough food and water for at least three days.

“We say the first 72 (hours) are yours,” Arnold added. “The first three days will be difficult for the speakers to reach you. “

A dangerous 10- to 15-foot storm surge is expected from Morgan City, La., To the mouth of the Mississippi River on Sunday as Ida makes landfall, the NHC said. Additional storm surges are expected from the coast of western Louisiana to the Alabama-Florida border.

The storm surge, coupled with winds as strong as 150 mph, could leave parts of southeastern Louisiana “uninhabitable for weeks or months,” according to a National Weather Service (NWS ) of New Orleans.

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The NWS warned of “structural damage to buildings, with many washed away” as well as winds that could lead to “widespread power and communication failures.” The torrential rains could cause “many closures of roads and bridges, some being weakened or washed away”, as well as “some structures becoming uninhabitable or washed away”.

Rainfall during the storm can total 8 to 16 inches from southeast Louisiana to southern Mississippi through Monday, with isolated amounts of 20 inches possible, the NHC said.

In anticipation of the storm, airlines on Sunday canceled all flights to and from Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, the the airport said.

In Mississippi, at least 15 school districts and universities will be closed Monday, with the majority of schools announcing plans to resume classes on Tuesday, pending weather forecasts.

In addition, a dozen casinos along the Mississippi Gulf Coast closed their doors ahead of the hurricane’s expected arrival. Most casinos closed on Saturday afternoon or Saturday evening and announced their intention to reopen on Tuesday.

The region prepares for the approach of the landing

Local residents quickly run out of time to evacuate, and those who haven’t left on time should work to find a safe place to hide.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joseph Lopinto said on Friday that once the storm started, people were to stay off the roads to protect first responders.

As the storm approached, mandatory evacuations were ordered for parts of at least seven parishes in Louisiana as well as the towns of Grande Isle and Port Fourchon. Voluntary evacuations were issued in six parishes.

Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng on Saturday urged residents of low-lying areas to evacuate before Hurricane Ida strikes, as the expected storm surge is “insurmountable.”

“I would like to reiterate that the storm surge that we are expecting is insurmountable,” she said, adding that the storm is expected to persist in the region. “We need you to leave immediately. “

St. Tammany Parish officials reminded residents to protect their pets during the storm.

“Bring your animals inside, DON’T LET THEM chained outside,” the St. Tammany Parish Animal Services Department wrote in a Facebook post. “If it is not safe for you, it is not safe for your dog.”

Animal Services urged those evacuating to check their pets’ collars and ID tags, bring crates large enough to accommodate them, prepare food, water and medicine for several days and call shelters in advance to see if they accept pets.

The storm will further strain already stretched resources amid the latest wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Hospitals in New Orleans will not evacuate and instead shelter in place as Ida makes her way through the area, said city health department director Dr Jennifer Avegno.

“I would ask our residents, if you don’t need to go to the hospital this weekend, if you don’t have a life-threatening emergency, please don’t go,” Avegno said. “Now is not the time to go to the hospital for a routine thing that could wait until later.”

CNN’s Monica Garrett, Gene Norman, Chris Boyette, Paul P. Murphy, Melissa Alonso, Hollie Silverman, Amanda Watts, Haley Brink, Artemis Moshtaghian, Liam Reilly, Ray Sanchez and Alaa Elassar contributed to this report.

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