Louisiana braces for ‘life-altering’ Hurricane Ida

Winds up to 130 mph expected when Category 4 storm slams ashore late Sunday
Published: Aug. 28, 2021 at 5:41 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Hurricane Ida continued to strengthen and take aim at the Louisiana coast early Saturday, with the National Hurricane Center continuing to predict in its 10 a.m. advisory that the storm will intensify rapidly before reaching the Gulf Coast.

At 10 a.m., the center of the storm was about 435 miles southeast of Houma, exhibiting maximum sustained winds of 85 mph after crossing the northwestern tip of Cuba. The hurricane, still predicted to reach Category 4 intensity, was moving northwest into the Gulf of Mexico at 16 mph.

Forecasters at the NHC said Ida could bring winds as high as 130 mph by the time it slams ashore. At 10 a.m., hurricane-force winds extended 30 miles outward from the storm’s center and tropical storm-force winds were clocked at a radius of 125 miles from the core. The storm’s size was expected to grow as it moves across warm Gulf waters.

A hurricane warning is in effect from Intracoastal City to the mouth of the Pearl River, and for Metropolitan New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas. A tropical storm warning is in effect from Cameron to just west of Intracoastal City and from the mouth of the Pearl River to the Alabama-Florida border.

The NHC said rapid strengthening of the storm is expected in the next 24 to 36 hours, and predicted Ida to be “an extremely dangerous major hurricane” when it reaches the coast late Sunday or early Monday.

“This will be a life-altering storm for those who aren’t prepared,” National Weather Service meteorologist Benjamin Schott said during a Friday news conference with Gov. John Bel Edwards.

New Orleans city officials said residents need to be prepared for prolonged power outages, and asked elderly residents to consider evacuating. Collin Arnold, the city’s emergency management director, said the city could be under high winds for about 10 hours.

Earlier Friday, Cantrell called for a mandatory evacuation for residents outside the city’s levee protections — a relatively small sliver of the city’s population.

With the storm’s forward speed slowing down and the intensity picking up, the storm surge may overtop some levees that protect parts of New Orleans on the west bank of the Mississippi River, said Heath Jones, emergency manager, of the Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans District. However he said they’re designed to be overtopped and have protections in place to prevent more damage. There does not appear to be any danger of storm surge coming over the levees that protect the city’s east bank, he said.

President Joe Biden approved a federal emergency declaration for Louisiana ahead of the storm. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said FEMA plans to send nearly 150 medical personnel and almost 50 ambulances to the Gulf Coast to assist strained hospitals.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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