Hurricane Ida became a Category 4 storm early Sunday morning with up to 140mph (225km/h) sustained winds, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). It is heading towards landfall on the northern Gulf Coast today, where it will bring life-threatening storm surge, dangerous rainfall flooding and potentially catastrophic winds.
The storm is located 65 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River, NHC forecasters said in a 6 am ET update, continuing its march northwest toward Louisiana and the Gulf Coast at 15 mph, reported CNN.
Ida had winds of 145 mph as of 5 a.m. CDT on Sunday, making it a strong Category 4 hurricane. Maximum sustained winds in Ida increased by 65 mph in 24 hours, which easily meets the criteria for the rapid intensification of a tropical cyclone, according to The Weather Channel.
Storm Could Be Among the Strongest to Hit Louisiana Since the 1850s
Bands of heavy rain and gusty winds are beginning to spread into the northern Gulf Coast ahead of Ida's landfall in Louisiana on Sunday.
Governor of Louisiana John Bel Edwards warned the storm could be one of the biggest to hit the state in 150 years. "Your window of time is closing," he warned residents on Saturday.
"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 weather will start to deteriorate very quickly tomorrow."
Dangerous Storm Surge
There is also a danger of life-threatening storm surge inundation Sunday in areas along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The impacts of rainfall, wind and storm surges will extend far from the center of the storm, the NHC said, and warnings have been issued to residents that have felt the effects of major storms both in the past year and historically, reported CNN.
The NHC also notes that overtopping of local levees outside of the hurricane and storm damage risk reduction system is possible where local inundation values may be higher.
US Witnesses the Storm Amid the Surge in Covid Infections
The storm threatened a region already reeling from a resurgence of Covid-19 infections.
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 flashpoints for new infections, reported The Associated Press.
Edwards vowed Saturday that Louisiana's "resilient and tough people" would weather the storm. He also noted shelters would operate with reduced capacities "to reflect the realities of COVID," reported AP.
President Joe Biden approved emergency declarations for Louisiana and Mississippi ahead of Ida's arrival. He said Ida was "turning into a very, very dangerous storm" and the federal government was ready to provide help.