As Hurricane Ida was closing in on Louisiana on Sunday, it was growing stronger and approaching Category 5 strength.
As of 7 a.m. Central Time, Ida’s sustained winds had been clocked at 150 mph, only 7 mph short of the Category 5 rating of 157 mph, according to the Weather Channel.
The hurricane’s winds had increased by 65 mph in the 24 hours ending at 7 a.m. The storm is expected to make landfall early Sunday afternoon as Louisiana’s most powerful storm ever, according to CNN.
If the storm hits land while still packing 150 mph winds, it would tie wind-speed records set last year in Hurricane Laura and in an 1856 hurricane.
I feel sick to my stomach watching this #hurricane. #Ida’s eye is clearing out, and the rapid intensification continues. At this point be ready for the one of the strongest to ever make landfall in #Louisiana. This is a very sobering morning… godspeed pic.twitter.com/V2laRRdR8p
— Eric Blake ? (@EricBlake12) August 29, 2021
Ida’s arrival comes exactly 16 years after that of Hurricane Katrina, one of the most devastating storms to hit Louisiana.
Katrina was a Category 3 storm with 125 mph when it roared ashore in 2005. More than 1,800 deaths were linked to that hurricane, which left over $100 billon in damage, according to The New York Times.
Although Louisiana made improvements to the levee system in the New Orleans metro area after Katrina’s devastation, the areas Ida is targeting might be less equipped to handle damage, according to Barry Keim, a professor at Louisiana State University and Louisiana State Climatologist.
Ida was expected to hit with a storm surge of 12 to 16 feet.
Jaw-dropping view of Hurricane Ida. pic.twitter.com/c25sHH3DUZ
— Dakota Smith (@weatherdak) August 29, 2021
Ida “could be quite devastating — especially some of those high-rise buildings are just not rated to sustain that wind load,” said Jamie Rhome, acting deputy director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Parts of Louisiana are still reeling from Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm that clobbered the coast last year and was linked to 42 deaths and upward of $19 billion in damage, per the Times.
Ida’s rainfall is projected to go from 8 to 16 inches, with some 20-inch totals possible. In comparison, Katrina dumped 5 to 10 inches on most places it hit, with some areas getting 12 inches.
“That is a lot of rainfall,” Rhome told the Times. “Absolutely the flash-flood potential in this case is high, very high.”
If Ida hits as advertised, he said, it would have a “huge and devastating impact to those local communities.”
HURRICANE IDA IMPACT: Here is a look at the storm surge in Grand Isle pic.twitter.com/BSOuy0ye0b
— wdsu (@wdsu) August 29, 2021
“We can sum it up by saying this will be one of the strongest hurricanes to hit anywhere in Louisiana since at least the 1850s,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said Friday, according to the Times.
“It’s very painful to think about another powerful storm like Hurricane Ida making landfall on that anniversary. But I also want you to know that we’re not the same state that we were 16 years ago.”
Over 4,000 soldiers and airmen with the Louisiana National Guard are mobilized, and another 5,000 will be prepared by the time the storm makes landfall, Edwards told CNN Saturday afternoon. The storm has forced evacuations in New Orleans and the surrounding coastal region.
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