Hurricane Ida Has Pushed Into The Gulf Of Mexico. Warnings Are Up For Louisiana
Hurricane Ida hit Cuba on Friday and it is moving into the Gulf of Mexico. It is expected to strike Louisiana's coastline late Sunday, prompting evacuations along the coast.
The storm picked up speed throughout Friday with sustained winds of 80 miles an hour, according to the National Hurricane Center. At 11 p.m. it was located 615 miles southeast of New Orleans, moving at 15 mph.
Ida battered western Cuba as a category 1 and a hurricane warning remains in effect over the island's Pinar del Rio, Artemisa provinces, as well as Isle of Youth. NHC forecasters also issued a hurricane warnings for Intracoastal City, Lake Pontchatrain, and New Orleans.
They predict winds will strengthen rapidly and Ida could become a category 4 hurricane by the time it makes landfall in the U.S.
"Ida is expected to be an extremely dangerous, major hurricane when it reaches the coast," the hurricane center noted.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards urged residents on Friday to "please make use of all the time that you have between now and tomorrow night to prepare for this storm."
"This is going to be a very serious storm," he added, noting storm surge warnings of up to 15 feet and alarming forecasts of up to 20 inches of rainfall.
During an evening news conference New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said it was too late to order a mandatory evacuation of the city saying the storm has gained too much intensity and is moving too quickly.
"Hurricane Ida is developing more rapidly than anyone was prepared for and there are no indications at all that it will weaken," Cantrell said.
The storm, she said, "represents a dramatic threat to the people of New Orleans. Time is not on our side."
Cantrell encouraged those who can to leave the city, warning those who remain to be prepared to "hunker down" in safe spaces no later than midnight Sunday.
City officials say they are bracing for storm winds above 110 miles per hour which could cause structure damage and downed trees as well as rains between 16 and 20 inches over two days, which could cause severe flooding damage. Another blow may be prolonged power outages.
Ida stands as the state's most serious weather threat of the 2021 hurricane season. Last year was the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record with 30 named storms, four of which hit Louisiana, NOLA.com reports.
The expected landfall of Ida also hits around the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the costliest storm on record in U.S. history.
NPR's Russell Lewis contributed to this story.