NEW ORLEANS, La. — Hurricane Ida is continuing to intensify ahead of its expected landfall in Louisiana on Sunday, which is also the 16-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans.
The National Weather Service said Saturday that Ida’s maximum sustained winds had increased to 100 mph with higher gusts. Hurricanes with winds speeds between 96 and 110 mph are considered Category 2 storms based on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
The NWS says Ida is expected to rapidly strengthen Saturday and it’s expected to be an “extremely dangerous major hurricane” when it approaches the northern Gulf Coast on Sunday.
Officials say Ida could be a Category 4 storm when it makes landfall. That means sustained winds could reach 130 to 156 mph when the center of the storm reaches the coastline.
Ahead of the storm, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards held a press conference Saturday over what to expect. During his remarks, the governor said Ida will be one of the strongest storms to hit Louisiana since at least the 1850s. He said the weather will degrade rapidly in the state Sunday morning and Ida should make landfall sometime around 7 p.m. CST.
“We can also tell you that your window of time is closing. It is rapidly closing,” said Bel Edwards. “And just like we said yesterday, by the time you go to bed tonight, you need to be where you intend to ride the storm out and you need to be as prepared as you can be because the weather will start to deteriorate very quickly tomorrow. By 8 a.m., we expect tropical-storm-force winds to start to move into the inland across southern Louisiana.”
The National Hurricane Center in Miami says there is a danger of life-threatening storm surge inundation Sunday along the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi.
“Extremely life-threatening inundation of 9 feet or greater above ground level is possible somewhere within the area from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the coast of Mississippi,” wrote the NHC in an advisory, adding that levees could be overtopped.
The NHC says hurricane-force winds are expected Sunday along the Louisiana coast, including in New Orleans, with “potentially catastrophic wind damage possible where the core of Ida moves onshore.”
Officials say Ida is likely to produce heavy rainfall Sunday and Monday across the central Gulf Coast from southeast Louisiana to coastal Mississippi, resulting in life-threatening flash and urban flooding and significant river flooding impacts.
“As Ida moves inland, significant flooding impacts are likely across portions of the Lower Mississippi and Tennessee Valleys Monday and Tuesday,” the NHC wrote.
As the Ida approaches Louisiana’s coast, residents of the state are rushing to prepare. A combination of voluntary and mandatory evacuations have been issued for cities and communities in the area, including New Orleans.
The mayor of The Big Easy, LaToya Cantrell, ordered a mandatory evacuation for areas outside the city’s levee system and a voluntary evacuation for residents inside the levee system. Cantrell said the storm was strengthening so quickly there was no time to order a mandatory evacuation of the entire city, The Associated Press reports.