Hurricane Ida was elevated to Category 2 on Saturday as it intensified towards the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast, where people were preparing for it to make landfall as a Category 4 storm putting Life threatening in what officials said could be the strongest hurricane to hit Louisiana in at least 165 years.
Ida, due to make landfall on Sunday, on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, had moved away from Cuba and was heading towards the Louisiana coast with sustained winds of 100 miles per hour, said the National Hurricane Center in a notice.
Governor John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said Ida would be the strongest storm to hit the state since at least the 1850s. In 1856, a hurricane razed the last island of Louisiana and killed more than 200 people, according to the National Weather Service.
Mr Edwards warned the evacuees at a press briefing on Saturday, a day after he said a emergency state, that their “window of time is closing”.
“It closes quickly,” he said.
State authorities are preparing to respond and have nearly 200 buses ready to evacuate Louisianans, including residents of nursing homes, he said. Authorities have closed more than 200 floodgates and more than 5,000 members of the National Guard, as well as rescuers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, are preparing to participate in relief efforts.
“Ida is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane as it approaches the northern Gulf Coast on Sunday,” the hurricane center said on Saturday, adding that parts of Louisiana could expect potentially fatal flooding when the storm hits Earth.
Depending on the centre’s monitoring model and National Meteorological Service In Shreveport, La. Ida was then to turn north and weaken as it passed through Louisiana and western Mississippi, forecasters said.
Saturday at 2:30 p.m., the Shreveport weather service reported that Ida had become a Category 2 hurricane.
Tropical storm force winds could arrive as early as Saturday evening, the New Orleans National Weather Service said on Twitter. Sections of the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts are expected to be prepared for potentially fatal storm surges of up to 15 feet on Sunday, the center said.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans has ordered all residents outside the city’s levee system to evacuate, and she said on Saturday they must be sheltered in place by midnight. Areas covered by the evacuation order included the Lake Catherine, Venetian Islands and Irish Bayou areas of the city, the mayor said on Twitter.
“This storm will not weaken in any way, and there is always an opportunity for the storm to strengthen,” Ms. Cantrell said at a media briefing. “Time is not on our side. It grows rapidly, it intensifies.
She added that city officials were setting up shelter after the hurricane at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, the same place where thousands of evacuees flocked after Hurricane Katrina.
Collin Arnold, director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, warned on Saturday that residents must expect power outages and must have enough food and water to last three days .
Traffic camera footage showed local freeways blocked as people rushed to flee New Orleans. Further south, in the parishes of Lafourche and Plaquemines, the authorities decreed Saturday night curfews.
Along the Gulf Coast, a hurricane watch was issued for the New Orleans metropolitan area and the area between Cameron, Louisiana, and the Mississippi-Alabama border, where Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency on Saturday afternoon.
Sunday is the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s arrival in the state. This storm triggered catastrophic flooding and high winds, causing one of the costliest disasters in the country’s history.
Forecasters have warned that Ida could cause flash floods, mudslides and potentially fatal rip currents. Ida is expected to bring up to 16 inches of rain, with isolated totals of up to 20 inches from southeast Louisiana to the Mississippi and Alabama coasts through Monday morning.
It has been a dizzying few weeks for meteorologists who have been monitoring three named storms that quickly formed in the Atlantic, causing storms, floods and destructive winds to different parts of the United States and the Caribbean.
The first came from Tropical Storm Fred, which made landfall on August 16 in the Florida panhandle. As Fred crossed the southeast, heavy rains were brought in and several tornadoes were triggered. At least five people have been killed after flash floods destroyed homes in western North Carolina in the wake of the storm.
Grace formed in the Eastern Caribbean on August 14, the same day a 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti’s western peninsula. The storm quickly moved west as the country struggled to free those trapped in the rubble, bringing at least 10 inches of rain. Grace then made landfall again on the Yucatán Peninsula, resulting in further heavy rains, power outages and hundreds of evacuations. A third landing, on the east coast of mainland Mexico, left at least eight people dead.
And Henri formed on August 16 as a tropical storm off the east coast of the United States.
It strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane, but was downgraded before making landfall in Rhode Island, sparing the region the worst of what had been expected. It hit the northeast with high winds and torrential rains, cutting power to more than 140,000 homes from New Jersey to Maine. Some Connecticut communities were evacuated and New York City rainfall records were broken.
The links between hurricanes and climate change are becoming increasingly evident. A warming planet can expect to see stronger hurricanes over time and a higher incidence of more powerful storms – although the total number of storms may drop as factors like stronger windshear could prevent the formation of weaker storms.
Hurricanes also get wetter due to more water vapor in the warmer atmosphere; scientists have suggested that storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 produced much more rain than they would have had without the human effects on the climate. In addition, rising sea levels contribute to increased storm surges, the most destructive element of tropical cyclones.
A major United Nations climate report released in August warned that countries have delayed cutting fossil fuel emissions for so long that they can no longer prevent global warming from intensifying over the next 30 years, resulting in more frequent and potentially fatal heat waves and severe droughts. Tropical cyclones have likely become more intense over the past 40 years, according to the report, a change that cannot be explained by natural variability alone.
Ana became the first named storm of the season on May 23, making it the seventh consecutive year that a named storm has developed in the Atlantic before the official start of the season on June 1.
In May, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted there would be 13 to 20 named storms this year, of which six to 10 would be hurricanes and three to five major Category 3 or more hurricanes in the Atlantic. In early August, in a mid-season forecast update, they continued to warn that this year’s hurricane season would be above average, suggesting a busy end to the season.
Matthew Rosencrans of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said an updated forecast suggested there would be 15 to 21 named storms, including seven to 10 hurricanes, by the end of the season on November 30. Ida is the ninth named storm of 2021..
Last year there were 30 named storms, including six major hurricanes, forcing meteorologists to exhaust the alphabet for the second time and use the Greek letters.
It was the highest number of storms on record, exceeding 28 in 2005, and included the second highest number of hurricanes on record.
Neil vigdor, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Christine hauser and Alyssa Lukpat contributed reports.