New Orleans: Hurricane Ida hit the coast of Louisiana on Sunday as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, 16 years after the deadly Hurricane Katrina devastated the southern US city of New Orleans.
“Extremely dangerous Category 4 Hurricane Ida makes landfall near Port Fourchon, Louisiana,” the National Hurricane Center wrote in an advisory.
Ida hit the harbor, which lies about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of New Orleans, at 1655 GMT, packing an estimated maximum sustained winds of 150 mph.
Before Ida’s arrival, rain and strong wind swept the deserted streets of New Orleans throughout the morning, buffeting businesses and homes with sandbag-drenched windows.
State Governor John Bel Edwards said Ida, which had gathered force on its approach through the Gulf’s warm waters, may be the most powerful storm to hit the state since 1850.
He wrote on Twitter, “Hurricane #Ida has hit Louisiana. Find the safest place in your home and stay there until the storm hits.”
CNN reported that the storm had previously flooded the city of Grand Isle on a barrier island south of New Orleans.
The National Hurricane Center also reported high water levels and flooding affecting the communities of Shell Beach, Louisiana and Yachts Club, Mississippi.
According to the website poweroutage.us, widespread and prolonged power cuts are expected to leave more than 150,000 homes already without electricity by noon.
Amid immediate warnings of catastrophic damage, most residents had followed the authorities’ instructions to flee. Scores of people packed the bumper-to-bumper streets leading out of New Orleans in the days before Ida’s arrival.
In one neighborhood in eastern New Orleans, some residents were still making last-minute preparations hours before landfall.
“I’m not sure if I’m ready,” said Charles Fields, who was still bringing his garden furniture indoors, “but we just have to ride it.”
The 60-year-old, who watched Hurricane Katrina fill his home with 11 feet (3.3 m) of water in 2005, said “we’ll see how it holds up.”
‘Very serious test’
Governor Edwards warned Sunday that Ida would be “a very serious test for our levy system,” an extensive network of pumps, gates and mud and concrete berms that expanded after Katrina.
He told CNN that hundreds of thousands of residents were believed to have been evacuated.
The storm “presents some very daunting difficulties for us, hospitals are full of COVID patients,” he said.
The southern state, with its low vaccination rate, has been hardest hit by the pandemic with severely strained hospitals. Hospitalizations, at 2,700 on Saturday, are near their epidemic high.
Reminiscent of Katrina on August 29, 2005, where about 1,800 people died in Louisiana and billions of dollars in damage.
Edwards previously said, “It’s very painful to think of another powerful hurricane like Hurricane Ida coming on that anniversary.”
Parts of southern Louisiana are expected to receive 10 to 18 inches (25 to 46 cm) of rain through Monday, while some areas may receive up to 24 inches of rain.
ida and coronavirus
Federal agencies have deployed more than 2,000 emergency workers to the region – including 13 urban search and rescue teams – as well as food and water supplies and power generators, the White House said on Sunday.
The White House said local officials, the Red Cross and other organizations have prepared dozens of shelters for at least 16,000 people.
Storm handling plans – and shelter planning – have been complicated by COVID-19.
US President Joe Biden, who declared a state of emergency for Louisiana, on Saturday urged anyone in community shelters to wear a mask and keep a distance.
Scientists warn of an increase in cyclone activity as climate change warms ocean surfaces, threatening the world’s coastal communities.