Hurricane Ida hits Cuba, and parts of U.S. Gulf Coast braces for hit

Hurricane Ida made landfall Friday afternoon on Cuba’s Isle of Youth with sustained winds of 75 mph.

Ida became a hurricane Friday afternoon as it swept toward western Cuba — and it’s expected to strengthen into a major hurricane as it approaches the US Gulf Coast this weekend, putting states from Louisiana to Florida on alert for fierce destruction.

Mandatory and voluntary evacuation alerts were popping up Friday along parts of the Gulf Coast — including parts of Louisiana and Mississippi in anticipation of Sunday’s landfall.

In New Orleans, Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued a mandatory evacuation of all city areas that are outside the its levee protection system.”We are activating every single resource at our disposal, so that we are prepared to respond,” Cantrell said Friday.

If Ida makes landfall in Louisiana, it would be the fourth hurricane to do so since last August — and would be Louisiana’s third major hurricane landfall in that span.

Ida, which formed in Caribbean as a tropical storm Thursday, is expected to cross western Cuba on Friday as a hurricane and could cause life-threatening flash floods there and the Cayman Islands.

In Baton Rouge, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome signed an emergency disaster declaration and said the city had pre-positioned sand and sandbags at eight strategic locations as part of storm preparations.

“Unfortunately, Louisiana is forecast to get a direct, strong hit from Tropical Storm #Ida, which is compounded by our current fourth surge of COVID-19. This is an incredibly challenging time for our state,” Edwards wrote on Twitter.

Officials in U.S. coastal areas preparing for the storm urged residents to move boats out of harbors and encouraged early evacuations.

Officials in Louisiana’s Lafourche Parish said they would enact a voluntary evacuation, especially for people in low-lying areas, mobile homes and RVs. Hurricane force winds of about 110 mph with gusts of 130 mph could hit the state, forecasters said.

“By Saturday evening, everyone should be in the location where they intend to ride out the storm,” Edwards said on Thursday.

Cuba’s meteorology institute said Ida would cause storm surges as far east as Havana. The governor of the Isle of Youth Adian Morera said an evacuation center was ready to receive families in the main town of Nueva Gerona, and sea vessels had already been secured along the coast.

Jamaica was flooded by heavy rains and there were landslides after the passage of the storm. Many roads were impassable, forcing some residents to abandon their homes.

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