As Hurricane Ida slammed into the Louisiana coast, now predicted to arrive as a “life-altering” Category 4 storm, thousands evacuated New Orleans and other communities on track. Ida.
Scheduled to arrive Sunday evening with winds of 140 mph, Ida is likely to land on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the devastating storm that struck New Orleans and other areas along the coast. Gulf, killing more than 1,800 people and destroying hundreds of thousands of homes. Katrina arrived in Louisiana as a powerful Category 3 storm – weaker than Ida’s projected force.
The I-10 freeway from New Orleans was blocked on Saturday morning after Mayor LaToya Cantrell ordered a mandatory evacuation for those living outside the dike protection system and a voluntary evacuation for those who live inside.
Ida had degenerated so quickly, Cantrell said, that he didn’t have time to forcefully evacuate the whole town.
“We’re not calling for a mandatory evacuation because the weather just isn’t on our side,” Cantrell told reporters Friday night. “We don’t want to have people on the road and therefore in greater danger. “
The looming threat has been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic. Louisiana and other states in the Deep South have one of the lowest vaccination rates in the United States, which has allowed the Delta variant to spread throughout the region, resulting in record hospitalizations.
New Orleans health officials have not evacuated hospitals due to limited capacity in neighboring states, despite an estimated 15% drop in Covid state patients over the past week.
“The capacity of hospitals throughout this region, from Texas to Florida, is extremely limited,” city health director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said Friday evening.
On Saturday morning, the National Weather Service (NWS) said that an area of southeast Louisiana south of the Mississippi could experience tropical force winds starting Saturday night, which means about 10 hours of powerful gusts and precipitation projected between 8 inches and 16 inches. New Orleans and other cities on the storm’s predicted path, including Baton Rouge and Lafayette, were prepared for prolonged power outages.
As of Saturday morning, Ida was centered about 510 miles southeast of New Orleans, moving northwest at 16 mph with sustained winds of 85 mph.
Forecasters have warned of a potentially fatal storm surge of up to 15 feet in parts of the Louisiana coast, as federal emergency officials in New Orleans have warned the surge could overtake parts of the levees on the west bank of the Mississippi. The city’s east side, with a large population, appeared to be immune to surges exceeding the levee protections, officials said.
Joe Biden approved a federal declaration of emergency for Louisiana on Friday. The White House has announced plans to send 150 medical personnel to the affected region.
The president visited Louisiana three months ago, stopping in Lake Charles, a town still recovering after being twice hit by powerful hurricanes last year. Biden promised his administration would help with the recovery and development of infrastructure.
“It’s hard to believe you were as badly affected as you were within the time limit,” Biden said of Hurricanes Laura and Delta, which destroyed parts of the city.
Ida made landfall for the first time Friday afternoon on the Island of Youth in Cuba. The Cuban government has issued a hurricane warning for its westernmost provinces, where forecasters have said up to 20 inches of rain could fall, possibly triggering flash floods and mudslides.