Hurricane Ida will be one of the strongest storms to hit Louisiana in almost 170 years, the state’s governor warned yesterday.
Ida is due to make landfall in the afternoon or evening today (Sunday), the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which left more than 1,800 dead.
New Orleans mayor LaToya Cantrell yesterday urged residents to evacuate their homes – and to do it quickly.
She said: “If you’re voluntarily evacuating our city, now is the time to leave. You need to do so immediately. If you’re planning to ride it out, again, make sure that you’re able to hunker down.”
Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards said Ida “will be one of the strongest hurricanes that hit anywhere in Louisiana since at least the 1850s”.
He warned that the hurricane could span about 150 miles east and west from its centre.
More than 4,000 Louisiana National Guard members have already been mobilised and a further 5,000 will be prepared by the time the storm hits the state.
“You just have a few more hours really to prepare,” the governor said. “Where you go to bed tonight, you need to be prepared to ride out the storm and the storm is going to be very severe.”
In New Orleans, Cantrell ordered a mandatory evacuation of all areas outside the city’s flood protection system, and urged other residents to evacuate voluntarily.
A dangerous storm surge of 10 to 15 feet is expected, National Hurricane Centre forecasters said.
The surge, coupled with winds as strong as 150 mph, could leave some parts of south-east Louisiana “uninhabitable for weeks or months,” the National Weather Service in New Orleans said.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered for parts of at least seven Louisiana parishes as well as the towns of Grande Isle and Port Fourchon. Voluntary evacuations were issued in six parishes.
Jefferson Parish president Cynthia Lee Sheng urged residents in low-lying areas to immediately evacuate before the storm hits, as the expected surge is “unsurvivable.”
And anyone who cannot live without power for days or possibly weeks due to a medical condition should evacuate now before the storm starts, Sarah Babcock, the chief administrative assistant for Jefferson Parish, said.
Despite the intensity of the hurricane, the impact of its storm surge is predicted to be less severe than during Katrina.
Because that storm began as a Category 5 hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico before weakening as it approached landfall, it generated enormous storm surge, which brought over 20 feet of water to parts of the Mississippi coast.
“Fifteen foot sure can do a lot of damage,” said Barry Keim, a professor at Louisiana State University and Louisiana state climatologist. “But it’s going to be nothing in comparison with Katrina’s surge.”
Improvements to the levee system following Katrina have also better prepared the New Orleans metro area for the storm surge.
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