Hurricane Ida made landfall in southeastern Louisiana Sunday afternoon as a category four storm with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, arriving in the New Orleans region on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported the hurricane made landfall at approximately 12:55 p.m. EDT near Port Fouchon, Louisiana, just shy of the 157 mph needed to classify the hurricane as a category five storm—but still one of the strongest storms in U.S. history, the Associated Press reports.
Metropolitan New Orleans and the Louisiana coast is under a hurricane warning, with tropical storm and storm surge warnings also affecting parts of Mississippi and Alabama to the Florida/Alabama border.
“Catastrophic wind damage” and potentially up to 16 inches of storm surge is expected in parts of the Louisiana coast, with extreme wind warnings issued in the affected region.
Southeastern Louisiana could receive 10 to 18 inches of rain with isolated totals of up to 24 inches, the NHC reports, resulting in “life-threatening flash and urban flooding,” and tornadoes are also possible into Monday from Louisiana to the western Florida panhandle.
The National Weather Service (NWS) in New Orleans predicts the impact to the city from the extensive rainfall could be “devastating to catastrophic,” noting flood waters could result in “some structures becoming uninhabitable or washed away.”
“Rapid weakening” is expected once Ida makes landfall but the storm is expected to remain a hurricane through late Sunday night, and the storm is projected to move inland over Louisiana and western Mississippi on Monday before traveling northeast toward Tennessee Tuesday.
Ida will make landfall on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in 2005 as a category 3 storm with 125 mile per hour winds and 20 feet of storm surge. While experts predicted to the New York Times Ida is likely to have a “less severe” impact than Katrina with its lower storm surge, Ida is still projected to be potentially the strongest storm to hit Louisiana in at least more than 160 years. “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 at a news conference on Saturday.
What To Watch For
How Louisiana’s infrastructure designed to protect the New Orleans region from major storms will fare against Ida. Much of the New Orleans area is protected by a levee system and storm barriers that were strengthened in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, designed to withstand a so-called 100-year storm that has a less than 1% of occurring each year—which the New Orleans Advocate reports Ida will exceed. Sunday and the days following landfall will be the first time the system has been tested by such a storm, the Advocate reports, though officials expect the protective system to hold against the hurricane. “We are confident in the system’s abilities to weather Ida as intended for such an intense storm,” Nicholas Calli, west region director of the Southeast Flood Protection Authority, told the outlet. Some coastal areas of Louisiana outside the major levee system that have lower barriers in place, however, could see “complete and utter devastation” from the expected high storm surge, the Advocate reports.
People along the Louisiana coast were ordered to evacuate ahead of the storm, while New Orleans residents were under a voluntary evacuation order because the city’s mayor LaToya Cantrell said there was not enough time to impose a mandatory order. Ida’s rapid strengthening left the region with little time to prepare for the incoming storm, and comes as Louisiana is already reckoning with a massive Covid-19 surge. Ida is the fifth named storm so far of what’s expected to be a particularly busy hurricane season in the Atlantic, and comes after Louisiana already faced its largest hurricane since the 1850s just a year ago when Hurricane Laura made landfall in August 2020.
In addition to its projected devastation in Louisiana, Hurricane Ida will also make its way toward Tennessee as the state is already recovering from devastating flooding that left 20 people dead. Parts of Tennessee are currently projected to receive three to six inches of rain Tuesday into Wednesday, with potentially higher totals in some areas, which could affect some of the same areas as the earlier floods.