Hurricane Ida strengthened into a Category 4 storm Sunday morning, just a few miles per hour short of a Category 5, as it approached the Gulf Coast of Louisiana.
The storm sits about 60 miles west-southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River and 85 miles south of New Orleans, as of the National Hurricane Center’s 11am update Sunday. Winds are swirling at a sustained force of 150 mph.
Ida’s hit, as scheduled, comes on the 16th anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Katrina, which battered New Orleans in 2005.
The outer bands of the storm have already reached the shore, bringing hurricane-force winds and life-threatening storm surge.
A storm surge warning is in effect from east of Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana to the Alabama/Florida border, as well as Vermilion Bay, Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and Mobile Bay. A hurricane warning is in effect from Intracoastal City, La., to the mouth of the Pearl River, as well as Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and Metropolitan New Orleans.
A tropical storm warning extends from Cameron, La., to west of Intracoastal City and from the mouth of the Pearl River to the Alabama/Florida border.
Up to 24 inches of rain is possible across southeast Louisiana and far southern Mississippi through Monday, likely causing life-threatening flash and flooding, according to the NHC.
Forecasters also warned of tornadoes from southeast Louisiana across southeast Mississippi and southwest Alabama to the western Florida Panhandle.
New Orleans Airport has already canceled all incoming and outgoing flights Sunday in preparation for Ida and Baton Rouge Airport canceled all those scheduled after 10 a.m. Sunday. Hundreds of schools, state offices and parks are closed through at least Monday.
The New Orleans Saints evacuated Saturday and will work out of the Dallas Cowboys stadium this week.
Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office evacuated 835 people from the jail and Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office evacuated more than 600, according to WDSU. They’ll be moved to state facilities in less precarious areas.
The Louisiana National Guard was activated Saturday afternoon after President Biden approved a pre-landfall federal emergency declaration for the state.
“This declaration is a key part of us being able to respond to Hurricane Ida and really to prepare in advance of landfall,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a press conference Saturday.