(CNN) – After hitting Cuba twice in less than 24 hours, Hurricane Ida is expected to rapidly strengthen before making landfall in Louisiana on Sunday, forcing evacuations in New Orleans and the surrounding coastal region on the eve of the hurricane’s 16th anniversary. Katrina.
On Saturday morning, Ida was moving away from Cuba and moving into the Gulf of Mexico, where it is expected to intensify for the next 24 to 36 hours before making landfall on the Louisiana coast on Sunday afternoon or evening. . Recent satellite images showed that the storm is organizing better.
By 2:00 pm (Miami time) Saturday, Hurricane Ida strengthened and is now a Category 2 with 160km / h winds, according to an update from the National Hurricane Center (NHC). . Ida is expected to reach at least Category 4 strength before making landfall, the NHC said, sticking to its previous forecast.
“Ida is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane as it approaches the northern Gulf Coast on Sunday,” meteorologists from the National Hurricane Center said Saturday morning. At 8:00 am (Miami time), the storm was sustaining winds of 136km / h.
Officials across the state implored people to evacuate, with some binding orders to do so. News images from the area showed that traffic had formed to get out of New Orleans.
Preparing for Hurricane Ida
Through text alerts Saturday, New Orleans officials urged residents to “leave this morning if possible.”
“If you are staying, gather supplies, charge devices, lower the refrigerator temperature and secure items that are outdoors today,” the message read.
State officials also sent text messages to residents: “Prepare for Ida.”
“The inhabitants of Louisiana have until dark,” the text warned, adding that Ida “will bring serious impacts throughout the state.”
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued a mandatory evacuation of all areas of the city that are outside of her flood protection system, urging other residents to voluntarily evacuate or take shelter.
“The city cannot issue a mandatory evacuation because we don’t have time,” Cantrell said on Friday at a press conference, speaking about areas within the levee system. “We don’t want to see people on the road and, therefore, in greater danger due to lack of time.”
Dangerous 3- to 15-foot storm surges are expected from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the mouth of the Mississippi River on Sunday when Ida makes landfall, said the NHC.
The storm surge, along with strong 150 mph winds, could leave parts of southeastern Louisiana “uninhabitable for weeks or months,” according to the latest hurricane statement from the National Weather Service in New Orleans.
The statement warns of “structural damage to buildings, many of which could be destroyed,” as well as winds that could cause “widespread power and communication cuts.” The torrential rains could cause “numerous road and bridge closures with some weakened or razed” along with “some structures rendered uninhabitable or razed.”
Hurricane conditions in areas along the northern Gulf Coast are likely to begin Sunday, and tropical storm conditions are expected to begin late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. These conditions will spread inland over parts of Louisiana and Mississippi Sunday night and Monday.
Rainfall can amount to between 203 and 406 millimeters, with an isolated maximum total of 520 millimeters possible in southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi through Monday, likely leading to significant flash flood and river impacts.
A hurricane warning remains in effect from Intracoastal City, Louisiana, to the mouth of the Pearl River and includes Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and New Orleans.
In Louisiana, the tropical storm warning was in effect from Cameron to the west of Intracoastal City and the mouth of the Pearl River to the Mississippi-Alabama border. Tropical storm watches and watches are also issued, extending east to the Alabama-Florida border.
The city anticipates damaging wind impacts of up to 177 km / h, according to Collin Arnold, director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
“If you are going to evacuate, you know that it is your responsibility, do it as soon as possible,” he said. “You don’t want to get stuck on the road when the storm makes landfall”
If Ida makes landfall in Louisiana, it would be the fourth hurricane to do so since last August and the third major Louisiana hurricane in that span.
Sunday, which is the scheduled day to make landfall, is also the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a devastating Category 3 storm with winds close to 204 km / h that caused severe flooding in cities along the Gulf Coast. , from New Orleans to Biloxi, Mississippi. More than 1,800 people died in the Gulf region directly or indirectly from the storm and in the days after, according to a NOAA report.
“August 29 is an important date in history,” Collins told CNN on Saturday. “Many people remember what happened 16 years ago. It is time to take refuge tonight and be where you need to be.”
In Washington, an administration official told CNN that President Joe Biden is “regularly briefed on the path of the storm.” Biden spoke with the governors of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi on Friday.
The storm is expected to make landfall off the southern coast of Louisiana sometime Sunday night as a major Category 4 hurricane.
Ida Raises Health Concerns Amid Covid-19 Pandemic
Hospitals in New Orleans will not be evacuated and instead, people will shelter in place as Ida travels the region, said the director of the city’s health department, Dr. Jennifer Avegno.
Capacity at nearby hospitals in Texas and Florida is “extremely limited,” Avegno said, with COVID-19 hospitalizations on the rise. He added that city hospitals are familiar with the plans during the storm season.
“I would ask our residents if they don’t need to go to the hospital this weekend, if they don’t have a life-threatening emergency, please don’t go,” Avegno said. “This is not the time to go to the hospital for something routine that could wait until later.”
Louisiana, meanwhile, had no plans Friday to separate vaccinated and unvaccinated people in shelters at state-assisted emergency facilities during Ida, according to Mike Steele, a spokesman for the state’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Steele noted that municipalities issued evacuation orders and that those operations begin locally. He added that all shelters in the state require the use of masks and physical distancing.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has expressed concern about shelters as COVID-19 cases increase in the state.
“The prospect of potentially hosting thousands and thousands of people at the peak of the fourth wave is very, very overwhelming,” he said during a press conference on the recovery efforts after the hurricane.
The governor recognized the challenge of preparing for a potential hurricane amid recovery efforts from the 2020 hurricane season.
“We are not recovered. Far from it,” the governor said of the impacts of hurricanes Laura and Delta last year. “We still have businesses boarded up from the last (hurricane). The houses have not yet been repaired and reoccupied. Or if they are damaged to the point of needing to be demolished and removed, in many cases that has not happened either.”
Ida hit Cuba twice
Before entering the Gulf, Ida hit land twice over Cuba as a Category 1 hurricane.
Ida, which formed as a tropical storm in the Caribbean on Thursday, reached Cuba’s Isla de la Juventud, or Isle of Youth, on Friday afternoon, the United States National Hurricane Center.
A second impact occurred in western Cuba about 30 km east of La Coloma, according to satellite images, radar data and data from the NOAA Hurricane Hunter.
In Pinar del Río, more than 100 millimeters of rain were registered, according to the Cuban Meteorological Institute. Jagüey Grande Matanzas experienced around 60 millimeters of rain and Isla de la Juventud had 46 millimeters, the institute said. Havana registered 23 millimeters.
Isolated cases of 127 to 381 millimeters of rain are expected in parts of western Cuba, according to forecasters from the hurricane center.
“These amounts of rainfall can produce life-threatening flash floods and landslides,” the hurricane center said.