Louisiana could be directly affected

  • “Preparations to protect life and property must be completed in haste,” the National Hurricane Center said.
  • Officials in New Orleans have told residents to be prepared for prolonged power outages.
  • Officials in New Orleans have expressed confidence that the levees – rebuilt after Katrina – could withstand a storm of Ida’s scale.

Ida moved closer to the Gulf Coast on Saturday, a treacherous storm that could strike Louisiana within 24 hours as a Category 4 – 16-year-old hurricane to the day Katrina struck her devastating blow.

The system, fed by unusually warm waters in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, is expected to intensify rapidly on Saturday and could strike the state directly on Sunday afternoon or evening with a possible life-threatening storm surge, severe flooding. and catastrophic winds at 140 km / h. , warned forecasters.

“It’s today,” said Jamie Rhome, acting deputy director of the US National Hurricane Center in Miami on Saturday. “If you’re on the Louisiana and Mississippi coast, you really, really have to go because today is in terms of protecting life and property.”

Many appeared to heed the warning: traffic clogged westbound roads early on Saturday, especially from New Orleans, and gas stations were busy.

A hurricane warning has been 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 has been extended to the Alabama-Florida border.

A state of emergency was declared in coastal and western counties of Alabama and throughout the state of Mississippi on Saturday afternoon.

Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans canceled 217 flights on Sunday, according to Flight Tracker FlightAware. Airport warned travelers on Twitter not to show up for flights unless they have been confirmed.

Delta, American Airlines and United Airlines also began canceling flights to and from Baton Rouge Metro Airport in Louisiana before the storm, depending on the airport. Early morning departure flights on American and United are scheduled to operate Sunday morning, but all flights from both airlines are canceled after 10 a.m. All Delta flights are canceled on Sunday, according to a Twitter statement from the airport.

“Rapid strengthening is expected over the next 12 to 24 hours, and Ida is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane as it approaches the northern Gulf Coast on Sunday,” the National Hurricane Center said on Saturday.

Heavy Ida rains will begin to affect the Louisiana coast on Sunday morning, the center said, spreading northeast into the lower Mississippi Valley later Sunday through Monday. Total precipitation accumulations of 8 to 16 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches are possible in southeast Louisiana and southern Mississippi through Monday.

The center also warned that “extremely deadly storm surges could reach 10 to 15 feet above ground level in the area from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the mouth of the Mississippi River.”

“Preparations to protect life and property should be hastily completed today in the alert zone along the northern Gulf coast,” the center said.

Ida’s maximum sustained winds rose to 105 mph on Saturday evening. It was centered 285 miles southeast of Houma, Louisiana, and was moving northwest at 16 mph, forecasters said.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards urged residents to prepare quickly and said Saturday night “you have to be where you intend to be to weather the storm.”

It will be one of the worst storms to hit Louisiana since at least the 1850s, he said.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell called for voluntary evacuations, citing the rapid intensification of the storm. “The city cannot order a mandatory evacuation because we don’t have time,” she said.

City officials have told residents to be prepared for extended power outages. Collin Arnold, the city’s emergency management director, said the city could be subjected to high winds for about 10 hours.

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New Orleans previously issued mandatory evacuations for coastal communities outside the city’s dike system, which protects the area from flooding. Authorities have warned they plan to shut off the floodgates on two highways near the city on Saturday.

Cantrell said she was “very confident in our dike protection system” which the city did not have when Hurricane Katrina hit.

Michael Richard boards Crescent City Pizza on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans ahead of Hurricane Ida on August 28, 2021.

Katrina made landfall in 2005 in Louisiana and Mississippi as a staggering Category 3 storm. New Orleans’ dike system failed and 80% of the city was inundated, leaving areas under 6 to 20 feet of water. ‘water. Nearly 2,000 people have died; the damage was reported at $ 125 billion, according to NOAA.

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With the storm speed slowing and intensity increasing, Ida’s surge could overtake some levees that protect parts of New Orleans on the west bank of the Mississippi River, said Heath Jones, New Orleans District Emergency Officer of the Army Corps of Engineers. .

However, he said they are designed to be outdated and have guards in place to prevent further damage. There does not appear to be any danger of a storm surge on the levees – rebuilt after Katrina – that protect the city’s east side, which makes up most of the city, he said.

Yet Ida’s expected landing on the exact day Katina struck shook the nerves of many in Louisiana as they lined up for groceries, gasoline and sandbags.

Ross Eichorn, a fishing guide on the coast about 70 miles southwest of New Orleans, said he was concerned the Gulf waters would “make a monster” of Ida. “With a direct hit, it’s not impossible to tell what’s going to be left, if anything. Anyone who isn’t concerned has something wrong with them.

Retired Police Officer Wondell Smith, who worked in the police force during Katrina, said he and his family plan to stay but are also preparing to travel further inland if the forecast s ‘aggravated. He loaded water, bread and sandwich meat into his SUV.

“I know what it looks like,” Smith said. “This is the first time I have come home in 34 years of service. And I want to be prepared.

The governor said in a briefing on Saturday that while many may be feeling the impact of Katrina’s birthday, Louisiana is this time prepared with a hurricane risk reduction system.

“We’re not the same state we were 16 years ago,” said Edwards. “This system is going to be tested, there is no doubt about it. The people of Louisiana are going to be tested. But we are resilient and tough people.”

Authorities have decided not to evacuate New Orleans hospitals. With hospitals from Texas to Florida filled with COVID patients, there was little room, said Dr Jennifer Avengo, the city’s director of health.

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

Ida made landfall for the first time Friday afternoon on the Island of Youth, south of Cuba.

Elsewhere in the eastern Pacific, Hurricane Nora formed early Saturday on a predicted track that would bring it near the Puerto Vallarta, Mexico area and then head towards a close encounter with resorts in the tip of the Baja California Peninsula by Monday.

Contribution: Bailey Schulz, USA TODAY; The Associated Press.

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