IDA intensified into a hurricane from a tropical storm on Friday and caused New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell to order the evacuation of people living outside the levee system of the southern city.
The storm may strengthen into a dangerous Category 4 hurricane before it makes landfall on the Gulf Coast on Sunday, the National Hurricane Center predicted.
With predictions of winds of 140 mph, Ida may arrive on the same day Hurricane Katrina caused a path of destruction along the Gulf Coast exactly 16 years earlier.
“This will be a life-altering storm for those who aren’t prepared,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Benjamin Schott during a news conference with Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards on Friday.
“By nightfall tomorrow night, you need to be where you intend to be to ride out the storm,” the governor warned.
Captain Ross Eichorn, a fishing guide on the coast southwest of New Orleans, told the Associated Press he is concerned that warm Gulf waters will “make a monster” out of Hurricane Ida.
“With a direct hit, ain’t no telling what’s going to be left — if anything,” Eichorn said.
“Anybody that isn’t concerned has got something wrong with them.”
Ida made landfall Friday afternoon on Cuba’s Isle of Youth, with forecasters saying as much as 20 inches could fall and lead to natural disasters like flash floods.
Ida is predicted to make landfall along the Mississippi River delta late Sunday, according to the hurricane center.
A hurricane warning has been issued for most of the Louisiana coast, and a tropical storm warning was extended to the Mississippi-Alabama line, the Associated Press reported.
New Orleans Mayor Cantrell urged residents with medical conditions or other special needs to evacuate early, with officials warning they will close floodgates on Saturday afternoon on two highways near New Orleans.
The city’s health director Dr. Jennifer Avengo said that because of the rise in coronavirus patients in hospitals from Texas to Florida, there is nowhere for patients in area hospitals to go, and officials have decided not to evacuate New Orleans hospitals.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki revealed FEMA will send almost 150 medical personnel and nearly 50 ambulances to the Gulf Coast to assist hospitals as President Joe Biden approved a federal emergency declaration for Louisiana ahead of Hurricane Ida’s arrival.
Collin Arnold, New Orleans’ director of homeland security and emergency preparedness, told AP, “Being east of this storm’s track is not ideal.”
“We’re anticipating significant impacts,” he added, which could include power outages and major flooding.
“The time to act is NOW,” the National Weather Service New Orleans tweeted on Friday.
“Hurricane Ida is now forecast to make landfall as a category 4 hurricane. This will bring SIGNIFICANT impacts to Southern Louisiana and Southern Mississippi.”
Later that same evening, the account added, “DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THIS! If you are asked to evacuate, LEAVE or you're putting your life in danger!”
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