Traffic moves bumper to bumper along I-10 West as residents evacuate toward Texas ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Ida in Vinton, Louisiana.
Adrees Latif | REUTERS
Hurricane Ida hit land in Louisiana on Sunday as a Category 4 storm at wind speeds of 250 mph, one of the strongest storms to hit the region since Hurricane Katrina, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
The National Hurricane Center warned at 11 a.m. ET Sunday that a life-threatening storm surge of nine feet or more is expected from Burns Point, Louisiana, to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and could potentially topple local levees.
Hurricane-force winds hit the southeastern Louisiana coast on Sunday morning before the storm hit land near Port Fourchon, Louisiana. Around 450,000 utility customers in Louisiana have been without power since the storm, and that number is expected to increase, according to PowerOutage.us.
In the past hour, sustained winds of 43 mph and a gust of 67 mph have been reported at New Orleans’ Lakefront Airport. Ida was about 15 miles southwest of Grand Isle, Louisiana, and about 72 km southeast of Houma, Louisiana, the Hurricane Center said.
Ida landed on the anniversary of Katrina, the dangerous Category 3 storm that devastated Louisiana and Mississippi 16 years ago, killing more than 1,800 people and causing $ 125 billion in damage.
Ida’s strength and path will be a major test of flood control from New Orleans to Katrina, including levees, flood walls, and gates built to protect against storms. Katrina had broken levees and caused catastrophic flooding in New Orleans.
Ida has also raised concerns about the city’s hospitals, which are already overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients and have little space for evacuated patients. Emergency shelters in Louisiana are operating at reduced capacity due to the pandemic, although state officials are working to secure hotel rooms for evacuees.
Ida intensified so quickly that officers did not have time to order mandatory evacuations. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell ordered a mandatory evacuation for a small portion of the city outside the levee system, but said there was no time to enact one for the entire city.
All Sunday flights were also canceled due to the approaching storm, New Orleans Airport announced on Saturday.
President Joe Biden has declared a state of emergency in Louisiana and Mississippi, a move that empowers the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate all disaster relief efforts.
“The storm is a life-threatening storm,” said the president on Sunday at a briefing at FEMA headquarters. “The devastation is likely to be immense. Everyone should listen to instructions from local and state officials.”
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said Saturday the storm would be one of the strongest to hit the state since at least the 1850s.
A resident picks up sandbags home from a city-operated sandbag distribution point on Dryades YMCA along Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., Friday, Aug. 27, 2021 in New Orleans as residents prepare for Hurricane Ida.
Max Becherer | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans attorney via AP
National Weather Service forecasters “are extremely confident about the current route and intensity forecast for Hurricane Ida, and you don’t hear them talk very often about that level of confidence,” Edwards said during an afternoon press conference.
Harmful winds will spread to southwest Mississippi on Sunday night and early Monday, likely causing widespread tree damage and power outages, as well as heavy rains and expected across the central Gulf Coast, the Hurricane Center said.
As the storm moves inland, the Hurricane Center is forecasting significant flooding in parts of the lower Mississippi, Tennessee Valley, upper Ohio Valley, central Appalachian Mountains and the mid-Atlantic by Wednesday, according to the Hurricane Center.
Ida is the first major storm to hit the Gulf Coast during the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active on record, with 30 named storms including 13 hurricanes.
Scientists warn of increasingly dangerous hurricane seasons as climate change fuels more frequent and catastrophic storms. NOAA expects between 15 and 21 named storms, including seven to ten hurricanes, in the 2021 season.
This story evolves. Please check again for updates.