Hurricane Ida intensified to 150 miles per hour winds as it barreled toward Louisiana on Sunday, becoming a Category 4 storm that could bring “complete and utter devastation” when it slams ashore, forecasters and local officials said.
The storm’s winds grew by 45 mph in five hours before it was expected to make landfall Sunday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center said. A storm is considered Category 5 at 157 miles per hour.
The coastal communities of Jean Lafitte, Barataria and Lafitte were bracing for disaster, as forecasts suggested flooding could overwhelm its 7 1/2-foot levee, Nola.com reported.
“Anything over 7 1/2, 8 foot would be complete and utter devastation,” Jean Lafitte Mayor Tim Kerner Jr. told the outlet.
“It’d be a historic storm in the worst possible way for the Town of Jean Lafitte, Crown Point, Lower Lafitte and Barataria, all of south Jefferson outside the levee protection.”
The storm had grown in strength so quickly that New Orleans officials said that there was no time to order an evacuation of its 390,000 residents.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell urged residents to leave voluntarily, warning that the “storm, in no way, will be weakening.”
“If you are voluntarily evacuating, now is the time to leave,” Cantrell said shortly before midnight on Saturday. “If you are riding this out, you need to be prepared to hunker down.”
Forecasters warned that the storm posed a threat nearly 200 miles of the state’s coastline, from Intracoastal City south of Lafayette to the Mississippi state line.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said that officials were working to find hotel rooms in order to provide safe shelter for evacuees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said that during last year’s hurricane season, the state secured rooms for 20,000 people.
“So, we know how to do this,” Edwards said. “I hope and pray we don’t have to do it anywhere near that extent.”
Ida will coincide with the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3 storm at landfall that killed 1,833 people and left millions homeless along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
With Post wires