NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Residents of the Louisiana coast on Saturday were taking one last day to prepare for what is described as a “life-changing” Hurricane Ida that is expected to bring winds up to 225 km / h when slap. down.
A combination of voluntary and mandatory evacuations has been requested for cities and communities in the region, including New Orleans, where the mayor has ordered mandatory evacuation for areas outside the city’s levee system and a voluntary evacuation for residents inside the dike system. But as the storm quickly escalated, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said it was not possible to order a mandatory evacuation for the entire city, which would require using all lanes of some highways to exit the city. city.
The storm is expected to make landfall on the exact date Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the Gulf Coast 16 years earlier. But while Katrina was Category 3 when it made landfall southwest of New Orleans, Ida is expected to hit an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane, with peak winds of 140 mph (225 km / h) before. to make landfall probably west of New Orleans on Sunday evening.
“It will be a storm that will change the lives of those who are unprepared,” National Weather Service meteorologist Benjamin Schott said at a press conference Friday with Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards.
Ida quickly intensified on Friday, going from a tropical storm to a hurricane with winds of 80 mph (128 km / h) as it passed through western Cuba. It is expected to gain momentum as it flies over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Early Saturday, Ida was centered 825 kilometers southeast of New Orleans. It was moving northwest at 16 mph (26 km / h), forecasters said.
In New Orleans, city officials have said residents need to be prepared for prolonged power outages and have asked elderly residents to consider evacuating. Collin Arnold, the city’s emergency management director, said the city could be subjected to high winds for about ten hours. Earlier Friday, Cantrell called for a mandatory evacuation of residents outside the city’s levee protections – a relatively small slice of the city’s population.
With the storm speed slowing and intensity increasing, the storm surge could overtake some dikes that protect parts of New Orleans on the west bank of the Mississippi, said Heath Jones, director of emergencies of the Army Corps of Engineers’ New Quartier d’Orléans. However, he said they are designed to be outdated and have guards in place to prevent further damage. There does not appear to be any danger of a storm surge on the dikes that protect the city’s eastern shore, which makes up most of the city, he said.
Across the region, locals were filling sandbags, getting gasoline for cars and generators, and stocking up on food. Captain Ross Eichorn, a fishing guide on the coast about 70 miles southwest of New Orleans, said he was concerned the warm Gulf waters could make Ida a monster.
“With a direct hit, it’s not impossible to tell what’s going to be left, if anything,” Eichorn said. He added: “Anyone who is not concerned has something wrong with them.”
A hurricane warning has been issued for most of the Louisiana coast, from Intracoastal City to the mouth of the Pearl River. A tropical storm warning has been extended to the Mississippi-Alabama line.
As hospitals prepare for the storm, they are still grappling with a fourth wave of coronavirus. Authorities have decided not to evacuate New Orleans hospitals. There is little room for their patients elsewhere, with hospitals from Texas to Florida already full of patients, said Dr Jennifer Avengo, the city’s director of health.
In the state’s largest hospital system, Ochsner Health System, officials have ordered 10 days of fuel, food, medicine and other supplies and have back-up fuel contracts for its generators. One positive thing was that the number of COVID-19 patients had fallen from 988 to 836 over the past week – a drop of 15%.
President Joe Biden approved a federal declaration of emergency for Louisiana ahead of the storm. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said FEMA plans to send nearly 150 medical staff and nearly 50 ambulances to the Gulf Coast to help overcrowded hospitals.
Ida made landfall for the first time Friday afternoon on the Island of Youth, south of Cuba. The Cuban government has issued a hurricane warning for its westernmost provinces, where forecasters have said up to 50 centimeters of rain could fall in places, possibly triggering flash floods and deadly mudslides. Landing in the United States is expected Sunday evening in the Mississippi Delta region.
If this forecast holds true, Ida would reach 16 to the day when Hurricane Katrina made landfall with winds of 125 mph (201 km / h) near the riparian community of Buras.
Katrina is responsible for approximately 1,800 deaths from the central Louisiana coast around the Mississippi-Alabama border. A massive storm surge swept the shores and wiped houses off the map. In New Orleans, federal levee failures resulted in catastrophic flooding. Water covered 80% of the city and many houses were flooded to the roofs. Some victims drowned in their attics. The Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center became scenes of sweltering misery as tens of thousands of people were left without electricity or running water.
Additionally, the hurricane center said Tropical Depression Ten formed early on Saturday. It was centered 820 miles (1,320 kilometers) east-southeast of the Leeward Islands. It was to remain over the open Atlantic Ocean and presented no danger to land.