Hurricane Ida intensified to 150 mph winds as it barreled toward Louisiana on Sunday, becoming a Category 4 storm that could bring “complete and utter devastation” when it slams ashore, forecasters and local officials said.
The storm’s winds grew by 45 mph in five hours before it was expected to make landfall Sunday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center said. A storm is considered Category 5 — the strongest — at 157 miles per hour.
In an eerie coincidence, Sunday is exactly 16 years to the day that Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, eventually killing 1,833 people and leaving millions homeless.
The coastal communities of Jean Lafitte, Barataria and Lafitte were bracing for disaster from Ida, as forecasts suggested flooding could overwhelm the area’s 7 1/2-foot levee, Nola.com reported.
“Anything over 7 1/2, 8 foot would be complete and utter devastation,” Jean Lafitte Mayor Tim Kerner Jr. told the outlet.
“It’d be a historic storm in the worst possible way for the Town of Jean Lafitte, Crown Point, Lower Lafitte and Barataria, all of south Jefferson outside the levee protection.”
The storm had grown in strength so quickly that New Orleans officials said that there was no time to order an evacuation of its 390,000 residents.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell urged residents to leave voluntarily, warning that the “storm, in no way, will be weakening.”
“If you are voluntarily evacuating, now is the time to leave,” Cantrell said shortly before midnight on Saturday. “If you are riding this out, you need to be prepared to hunker down.”
Forecasters warned that the storm posed a threat nearly 200 miles of the state’s coastline, from Intracoastal City south of Lafayette to the Mississippi state line.
“As meteorologists at the National Weather Service Slidell office, we can’t bear to see this on satellite,” the National Weather Service in New Orleans tweeted along with satellite footage of the monster storm barreling toward the Gulf Coast.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said that officials were working to find hotel rooms in order to provide safe shelter for evacuees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said that during last year’s hurricane season, the state secured rooms for 20,000 people.
“So, we know how to do this,” Edwards said. “I hope and pray we don’t have to do it anywhere near that extent.”
With Post wires