Hurricane Ida could be a storm of historic proportion, officials say

Hurricane Ida, the rapidly intensifying storm toward Louisiana, could be one of the strongest to hit the state in more than a century, meteorologists and state officials warned on Saturday. .

“We can sum up by saying that this will be one of the strongest hurricanes to strike anywhere in Louisiana since at least the 1850s,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a press conference, warning them. residents that their window to evacuate the area was closing. .

Ida, which passed through the Cayman Islands as a tropical storm and made landfall in Cuba on Friday as a Category 1 hurricane, is causing massive evacuations in Louisiana. Officials said early Sunday that it had become a Category 3 storm, and meteorologists expected it to reach Category 4 by the time it made landfall on Sunday afternoon or evening.

The hurricane could hit Louisiana with maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour on Sunday, the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

“It is very painful to think of another powerful storm like Hurricane Ida that made landfall on this anniversary,” said Mr. Edwards. “But I also want you to know that we are not the same state as 16 years ago.”

The government has invested billions of dollars in improving the region’s storm protection infrastructure. Ida will present a significant test of this system.

On Saturday, a hurricane warning was in effect from Intracoastal City, Louisiana, at the mouth of the Pearl River, an area that includes New Orleans. Coastal counties or those near the Gulf of Mexico in Mississippi and Alabama have also warned their residents of the likely damage from hurricanes.

Kevin Gilmore, a meteorologist with the New Orleans National Weather Service, said the hurricane would have “fatal impacts.”

“We don’t say ‘possible’ – we say ‘will happen’ because we want people to take it very seriously,” said Mr Gilmore. “I cannot stress enough the importance of this situation.”

Louisiana was also hit by several storms last year, including Hurricanes Laura and Delta.

Storm surge warnings were also issued. The National Hurricane Center said depending on the tides, the surge could reach 15 feet in Morgan City, Louisiana, and reach up to 7 feet in Lake Pontchartrain. A storm surge warning was also issued for coastal areas of eastern Alabama and Florida.

Total precipitation accumulation could reach up to 20 inches in southeast Louisiana, with flash flooding, catastrophic wind damage and a potentially fatal storm surge, the center said.

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

On Saturday night, Ida had maximum sustained winds of 105 miles per hour, making it a Category 2 hurricane, and further strengthening was expected throughout the day, the National Hurricane Center said.

“The strengthening process is definitely in full swing,” said Dennis Feltgen, communications manager at the National Hurricane Center.

The crucial question, for residents and emergency authorities along the Gulf Coast, is how much stronger it will get before it lands in the United States.

The hurricane center said the storm could get much stronger very quickly, becoming a major hurricane – defined as Category 3 or higher, with maximum sustained winds of at least 111 mph – within 24 hours of landing.

Mr Edwards declared a state of emergency on Thursday and Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama declared a state of emergency for the state’s coastal and western counties on Saturday, saying local officials expected “the possibility of flooding and even tornadoes in parts of Alabama.” In Mississippi, Governor Tate Reeves also Posted a state of emergency on Saturday, allowing the use of state resources for response and recovery.

Research over the past decade found that on average, such rapid intensification of hurricanes is increasing, in part because the oceans, which provide the energy for hurricanes, are warming due to human-made greenhouse gas emissions. But Ida will also strengthen quickly because the Gulf, as usual at the end of the summer, is very hot.

The center of the hurricane defines rapid intensification as an increase of at least 35 mph in sustained winds over 24 hours. During the extremely active 2020 season, Hurricane Laura intensified 45 mph in 24 hours before making landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 storm in late August.

The National Hurricane Center said Ida was likely to produce heavy rainfall Sunday night through Monday from southeast Louisiana to the Mississippi and Alabama coasts. Tropical storm force winds will arrive along the coast as early as Saturday evening, according to the National Weather Service, before the storm makes landfall Sunday afternoon or evening. After moving inland, the storm could contribute to flooding in Tennessee, where flash floods killed 20 people last weekend.

“Based on Ida’s current track and strength, this storm will test our hurricane protection systems in a way they have never tested before,” Executive Assistant Chip Kline said on Twitter. of the Governor of Louisiana for coastal activities. “It’s times like these that remind us of the importance of continuing to protect southern Louisiana.”



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