Hurricane Ida made landfall on the southeastern Louisiana coast as a Category 4 storm on Sunday amid fears of life-threatening storm surge and potentially catastrophic wind damage.
Coincidently, 16 years ago, Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi on the same date. In fact, Ida has made landfall just 40 miles (64 km) west of where Category 3 Katrina first struck land.
Based on wind speed, Ida went down as tied for the fifth strongest hurricane to make landfall in the United States, with a barometric pressure of 930 millibars. Based on central pressure it is tied for 9th strongest U.S. landfall.
Ida moved through the terribly warm ocean water in the northern Gulf of Mexico, intensifying overnight. Its top winds grew by 45 mph (72 kph) to 150 mph (230 kph) in five hours.
A beachfront web camera showed the ocean rising, while the waves churned and whipped palm trees, before all power was lost on the Louisiana barrier island. Over 100,000 customers were devoid of power and electricity by noon, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks outages nationwide.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell urged residents to leave voluntarily. Those who stayed were warned about potentially long power outages.
Nick Mosca was walking her dog when this happened.
“I’d like to be better prepared. There’s a few things I’m thinking we could have done. But this storm came pretty quick, so you only have the time you have,” Mosca told AP.
Additionally, amid surging COVID cases, New Orleans hospitals planned to ride out the storm with their beds nearly full, as similarly stressed hospitals elsewhere had little room for evacuated patients. And shelters for those fleeing their homes carried an added risk of becoming flash points for new infections.
Forecasters warned winds stronger than 115 mph (185 kph) were expected soon in Houma, a city of 33,000 that supports oil platforms in the Gulf and Gulfport, Mississippi, to the east of New Orleans was seeing the ocean rise and heavy rains bands.
Gov. John Bel Edwards vowed Louisiana's “resilient and tough people” would weather the storm.
Edwards said, "Louisiana officials were working to find hotel rooms for evacuees so that fewer had to stay in mass shelters."
President Joe Biden approved emergency declarations for Louisiana and Mississippi ahead of Ida's arrival.
“Ida will most definitely be stronger than Katrina, and by a pretty big margin,’’ said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy. “And, the worst of the storm will pass over New Orleans and Baton Rouge, which got the weaker side of Katrina.”
Hurricane Ida almost doubled in strength, shooting from 85 mph storm to a 150 mph storm in barely 24 hours, which meteorologists called “explosive intensification.”
With Inputs from Associated Press