29 August 2021 | James Porteous | Clipper Media
Photo: Storm shutters are hammered closed on a 100-year-old house, Friday, August 27, 2021, in New Orleans, as residents prepare for Hurricane Ida on.(AP)
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NEW YORK TIMES PAYWALL Published Aug. 28, 2021Updated Aug. 29, 2021, 4:53 a.m. ET
Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist & Mary Gilbert, AccuWeather meteorologist
Published Aug. 28, 2021 2:20 PM CEST | Updated Aug. 29, 2021 10:25 AM CEST
Evacuations were underway Saturday across parts of the Gulf Coast as officials around the region urged residents to make final preparations and heed warnings ahead of the life-threatening impacts posed by Hurricane Ida, which was forecast to rapidly intensify on Saturday and roar ashore Sunday.
Louisiana remained squarely in Ida’s focus, AccuWeather forecasters said, and the strengthening storm was around 440 miles south-southeast of New Orleans, which was struck by major Hurricane Zeta last autumn.
Ida is set to become the first landfalling hurricane on United States soil in 2021, and AccuWeather forecasters warn Ida is set to slam into Louisiana as a very dangerous Category 4 major hurricane and unleash major impacts across the Gulf Coast and Southeast. AccuWeather forecasters, expecting extreme impacts for the Gulf Coast, have rated Ida a 4 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes.
On Saturday afternoon, Ida began to rapidly intensify over the Gulf Coast, with wind speeds increasing from 85 mph to 105 mph, making the storm a now Category 2 hurricane (maximum sustained winds of 96 to 110 mph) on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Early on Sunday morning, Ida again strengthened into a major Category 3 hurricane, then quickly became a Category 4, packing 130 mph sustained winds.
As of 3 a.m. CDT Sunday, Ida was located in the Gulf of Mexico and was moving northwest at a speed of 15 mph. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 40 miles from the storm’s center and tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 140 miles.
“Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion today in the warning area along the northern Gulf coast,” the National Hurricane Center warned on Saturday. It added that the hurricane was expected to bring “life-threatening storm surge flooding, damaging winds and flash flooding” to potions of the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines.
As of Sunday morning, a variety of warnings were in place along parts of the central Gulf coast. Hurricane warnings were in effect from Intracoastal City, Louisiana, to the mouth of the Pearl River, and across Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and Metropolitan New Orleans. Tropical storm warnings were in effect from Cameron, Louisiana, to west of Intracoastal City, Louisiana, as well as from the mouth of the Pearl River to the Alabama and Florida border.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Thursday due to the potential impacts from the hurricane. He also called on residents to heed the warnings.
“Now is the time for people to finalize their emergency game plan, which should take into account the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” Edwards said.
New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell late Friday afternoon called for mandatory evacuations for areas outside the levee system. However, the National Weather Service (NWS) and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards indicated that there was no time for even implementing contraflow, Cantrell said in an evening press conference on Friday.
“Therefore, the city cannot issue a mandatory evacuation because we don’t have the time,” Cantrell said, advising for residents to either voluntarily evacuate or hunker down.
Northwest of New Orleans, outside of Baton Rouge in the city of Baker, Mayor Darnell Waites issued an emergency declaration for the city with the approach of Ida. The declaration came Saturday morning as images from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) showed traffic clogging I-10 as people evacuated from coastal areas. Cars heading west were bumper-to-bumper on I-10 at the I-110 split near Baton Rouge. Meanwhile, traffic from New Orleans largely traveled northeastward to escape the projected path of the storm.
AccuWeather forecasters are projecting Ida to make landfall on Aug. 29, exactly 16 years to the day since Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3 storm, made landfall twice along the Gulf coast, resulting in widespread devastation.
AccuWeather meteorologists say Ida will continue to track across the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday.
Sea-surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico will likely aid a strengthening storm, as they are well into the middle 80s in many areas.
“Not only is there warm surface water along the projected path of Ida, but there is deep warm water in that zone,” AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said. A deep repository of warm water can help to counteract any cooling of surface waters that can occur due to the storm’s wave action.
The central pressure of a hurricane can drop off more readily when it is over warmer water. As a result, the storm can become even more powerful, AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski explained.
Ida was over the Gulf of Mexico early Saturday as a Category 1 hurricane. The storm was forecast to rapidly intensify into a major hurricane. (AccuWeather RealVue™ Satellite)
This has been the casewith several notorious storms in recent years such as Hurricane Michael in 2018, which struck the Florida Panhandle, and Hurricane Laura in 2020, which slammed southwestern Louisiana. Laura was one of the record 11 named storms that struck the United States in 2020.
So far this 2021 season, five named systems have reached land in the U.S., but none were hurricanes at the time of landfall.
AccuWeather forecasters expect Ida to make landfall as a Category 4 hurricane (sustained winds of 130 to 156 mph). However, forecasters caution that there remains a possibility that during rapid intensification, Ida could become a Category 5 hurricane prior to landfall.https://playlist.megaphone.fm/?e=ADL7866432260
People along much of the Louisiana coast, including the city of New Orleans, as well as coastal areas of Mississippi, Alabama and the western portion of the Florida Panhandle should be prepared for significant and dangerous impacts from Ida. Some roads may become blocked by rising water, fallen trees and other debris as the hurricane approaches and moves inland. Widespread power outages are expected along the central Gulf Coast and Mississippi Delta regions.
Rough seas are expected to build outward from the south-central Gulf to much of the Gulf Coast and offshore waters beginning on Saturday. Depending on the exact track, size and strength of the storm, conditions may rapidly deteriorate. Wind gusts of 40 mph or greater and the first bands of heavy rain and thunderstorms can arrive as early as Sunday morning along the Louisiana coast — and the stormy conditions will spread inland and eastward from there.
“Near where the center of the storm moves ashore, wind gusts of 115-120 mph are possible and an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 180 mph is anticipated,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Randy Adkins said. Hurricane-force winds of 74 mph or greater are anticipated along much of the Louisiana coast and may extend inland as far as northern Mississippi and southeastern Arkansas.
“The greatest impacts of a northward-moving hurricane will be felt not only near the eye, but also on the storm’s northern and eastern side in general,” Kottlowski said. For this reason, significant impacts in terms of storm-surge flooding, torrential rain, high winds and severe thunderstorms can occur well in advance of and well to the east of where the eye pushes inland.
Due to the expected size and power of Ida, Gulf of Mexico waters will rise well in advance of the storm’s arrival near the coast, which is expected midday Sunday. Forecasters caution that bay, lake and bayou water levels will increase as well. Some low-lying roads along the coast may begin to take on water as early as Sunday morning.
A storm surge of 10-15 feet is forecast along portions of the central Louisiana coast, with 6 to 10 feet likely to extend from across the eastern Louisiana coast to the barrier islands south of mainland Mississippi. A storm surge of 3-6 feet is forecast to extend as far inland as Lake Pontchartrain and coastal areas of the Alabama Panhandle.
The heaviest rainfall, with a general 4-8 inches, is forecast to fall across much of Louisiana and Mississippi on northward into parts of Tennessee and Kentucky. In central Louisiana and in parts of southeastern Louisiana, rainfall amounts can be even higher, with 8-12 inches and an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 24 inches projected.
There is the potential for tornadoes and waterspouts to be spawned near and east of the point of landfall later Sunday and Sunday evening. This risk may continue near and east of the track of Ida as the system moves inland later Sunday night and Monday over the South Central and Southeastern states.
Louisiana was heavily targeted by direct strikes during the record 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. Tropical Storm Cristobal, Category 4 Hurricane Laura, Category 2 Hurricane Delta and Category 3 Hurricane Zeta all made landfall in the state, but Hurricane Marco had fallen below tropical depression status prior to moving ashore.
Through late August, four tropical storms — Danny, Elsa, Fred and Henri — have made landfall on U.S. soil. And back in early June, Tropical Storm Claudette impacted the U.S., but in an unusual meteorological twist, it was named a tropical storm by the NHC while it was over Louisiana, so it never made a traditional landfall.