- A tornado watch was issued for parts of Louisiana, including New Orleans.
- Storm preparations were made more difficult by the pandemic.
- The storm arrived on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall.
LAFAYETTE, La. – Hurricane Ida roared closer to the Louisiana shoreline on Sunday, a Category 4 storm that propelled 150 mph winds that could strengthen before hitting shore later in the day.
The National Weather Service warned of a life-threatening storm surge, potentially catastrophic wind damage and flooding rainfall for much of the northern Gulf coast. Meteorologist Benjamin Schott told USA Today Network that Ida could become a Category 5 hurricane before making landfall near New Orleans in Jefferson or Lafourche Parish Sunday afternoon.
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“I’m speechless,” Schott said. ‘I’m nauseous. It’s going to be a terrible day. All the worst things we thought the storm could do are about to happen.”
Ida was about 50 miles (80 km) southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River early Sunday, rolling northwest at 25 miles per hour. A Category 5 hurricane, the top of the scale, has wind gusts of 157 miles per hour. Ida could reach that point before it made landfall.
“This is something no one on the satellite wants to see,” the weather service tweeted Sunday. “Ida . . . continues to approach southeastern Louisiana. This remains a serious, life-threatening situation.’
The center of Ida It was predicted to continue over the north-central Gulf of Mexico Sunday morning, making landfall Sunday afternoon or evening. Ida is then expected to move far inland over parts of Louisiana and western Mississippi Monday and Monday evenings.
‘Today it is’: Louisiana, Gulf Coast braces for hit Sunday from ‘extremely dangerous’ Hurricane Ida
AN tornado watch was released for parts of Louisiana, including New Orleans, as well as parts of Florida, Mississippi and Alabama, according to the National Weather Service in New Orleans. The watch runs until 7 p.m.
Ida intensified so quickly that New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said there was no time to organize a mandatory evacuation. She urged the city’s 390,000 residents to leave voluntarily and warned those who stayed to prepare for extended power outages.
In Terrebonne Parish, 50 miles southwest of New Orleans, Sheriff Tim Soignet said at least 60%-70% of residents had been evacuated. Officers monitored the storm surge.
“It’s typical South Louisiana weather right now, but we’ll start feeling the wind bands soon,” Soignet said. “We will continue to monitor until it is unsafe. And we will come out again after (the storm) to assess the damage.”
Storm preparations were made more difficult by the pandemic. Louisiana is inundated with cases and most hospitals were preparing to continue operating through the storm. Governor John Bel Edwards said reduced capacity shelters would operate “to reflect the reality of COVID.”
The storm arrived on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall as a Category 3 storm. Most of the city flooded, nearly 2,000 people died, and federal officials estimated damage at $125 billion.
On Saturday, more than 90% of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico was shut down as Ida hurtled through the western Gulf of Mexico. About 85% of natural gas production in the Gulf had also been shut down, according to the federal Office of Security and Environmental Enforcement.
Workers had been evacuated from at least half of the 560 production platforms in the Gulf, the agency said.
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Five systems mentioned made it to the US this year, but Ida was poised to make landfall first with hurricane strength.
A hurricane warning was issued for most of the Louisiana coast from Intracoastal City to the mouth of the Pearl River, including the New Orleans metropolitan area. A tropical storm warning was extended to the Alabama-Florida border.
A state of emergency was issued Saturday afternoon in the coastal and western counties of Alabama and throughout the state of Mississippi.
Bacon reported from Arlington, Va. Contributors: Susan Miller and Doyle Rice, USA TODAY; Keith Magill and Kezia Setyawan, The (Houma, La.) Courier; Greg Hilburn, the (Monroe, La.) News Star