Hurricane Ida Rapidly Intensifying Toward a Major Hurricane Landfall in Louisiana
Hurricane Ida struck Cuba on Friday and threatened to slam into Louisiana with devastating force over the weekend, prompting evacuations in New Orleans and across the coastal region.
Ida intensified rapidly Friday from a tropical storm to a hurricane with top winds of 80 mph (128 kph) as it crossed western Cuba and entered the Gulf of Mexico. The National Hurricane Center predicted Ida would strengthen into an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane, with top winds of 140 mph (225 kph) before making landfall along the U.S. Gulf Coast late Sunday.
“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 Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.
The governor urged residents to quickly prepare, saying: “By nightfall tomorrow night, you need to be where you intend to be to ride out the storm.”
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell ordered a mandatory evacuation for a small area of the city outside the levee system. But with the storm intensifying so much over a short time, she said it wasn’t possible to do so for the entire city. That generally calls for using all lanes of some highways to leave the city.
A hurricane warning is posted from Intracoastal City, Louisiana, eastward to the mouth of the Pearl River, including Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and the New Orleans metro area. Tropical-storm-force winds are forecast to arrive in parts of this region late tonight into early Sunday, with hurricane conditions developing Sunday and Sunday night.
A tropical storm warning is posted from Cameron, Louisiana east to Intracoastal City, Louisiana, and from the Pearl River in Louisiana to the Alabama/Florida border. Tropical storm warnings are also in effect for inland southern Mississippi. Tropical storm conditions are expected to begin here tonight or early Sunday.
Finally, a tropical storm watch has been issued for inland portions of Mississippi and Louisiana, where tropical storm conditions are possible within 48 hours.
A storm surge warning has been issued from the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana, to the Alabama/Florida border including Vermilion Bay, Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and Mobile Bay. This means life-threatening inundation from storm surge is expected in these areas within 36 hours.
Forecast Track, Intensity
An area of high pressure over the Southeast U.S. will be the large-scale steering wheel for Ida, with its clockwise circulation sending it northwestward toward a landfall along the Louisiana coast late Sunday into early Monday. Keep in mind that impacts will arrive on Sunday before landfall occurs and that impacts will extend outside the forecast path shaded red in the map below.
Hurricane Ida is expected to continue intensifying in the Gulf of Mexico, likely rapidly, as it moves northwestward. That’s because Gulf of Mexico water temperatures are plenty warm and upper-level winds are favorable.
Therefore, Ida is currently expected to be at major hurricane strength, likely near Category 4 intensity, when it approaches the northern Gulf Coast Sunday.