Geocolor GOES-East satellite image of Hurricane Ida as it approached the Gulf Coast on Saturday.
Photo: STAR GOES-EAST / NOAA / DESDIS / STAR GOES-EAST
Hurricane Ida continues to intensify over the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to reach the Louisiana coast with a Category 4 force as early as Sunday afternoon, on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The National Hurricane Center warns that the “extremely dangerous” storm can result in “potentially catastrophic” wind damage when it hits land, as well as a potentially fatal storm surge and heavy flooding. Below are updates on Ida’s intended journey and its potential impact.
Illustration: Handout / NHC
By late Saturday afternoon, Ida had reached a Category 2 force and continued to escalate as it headed northwest over the Gulf of Mexico, a few hundred kilometers to the southeast. from the mouth of the Mississippi River. A hurricane warning is in effect from the state’s central coast east to the Mississippi border. Storm surge warnings extend east to the Alabama-Florida border.
Ida is currently expected to make landfall as a major hurricane along the central Louisiana coast on Sunday afternoon or evening, possibly southwest of New Orleans. Ida is expected to land as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 130 mph with a high confidence level and can produce a 10 to 15 foot storm surge that is life threatening in some areas:
Ida is also expected to produce heavy precipitation, especially as it is likely slowing down on land, with the threat of sudden and urban flooding, across much of Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as parts of Alabama. and Florida.
Parts of coastal Louisiana can receive 15 to 20 inches of precipitation or more.
Tropical storm force winds from Ida are expected to start affecting the Louisiana coast on Sunday morning.
Ida poses a significant threat to several important industries, as Jeff Masters and Bob Henson explain to Yale Climate Connections:
Ida is expected to follow one of the most critical industrial zones in the United States: the industrial corridor between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Not only is the region home to dozens of key petrochemical sites and crisscrossed by major pipelines, it also has three of America’s fifteen largest ports: the world’s largest bulk cargo port, the Port of South Louisiana, which sits along a 54-mile stretch of the Mississippi River; the country’s largest grain export port, the Port of New Orleans; and the port of Grand Baton Rouge, the 10th largest port in the country. These three ports handle 55 to 70% of all US grain exports to the world, supplied by barges down the river.
Traveling up the river, Mississippi River barges transport petrochemicals, fertilizers, and raw materials essential to the functioning of American industry and agriculture, making the Mississippi River the lifeblood of the American economy.
There is also a potential impact on hundreds of industrial sites that work with toxic chemicals. Nola.com points out that three previous hurricanes that hit the region have resulted in oil and chemical releases, and reports that about two-thirds of industrial sites containing toxic chemicals in Louisiana are on the hurricane’s current predicted path:
A Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate’s analysis of industrial data and Ida’s planned route across the state indicates that 590 sites that produce or store toxic chemicals are unsafe. Nearly 380 of them are within 50 miles of the coast, making them particularly vulnerable to storm surges, strong winds and heavy rains, according to analysis of sites listed in the United States Environmental Protection Agency Toxic Release Inventory.
Washington To postThe Capital Weather Gang blog highlight that while Ida may end up being a more intense storm than Katrina, that doesn’t mean she will have the same impact on the New Orleans metro area:
[A]Near Katrina, a $ 14.5 billion flood protection system has been built around New Orleans and is expected to be much more effective at preventing stormwater from flooding the city. Katrina was also a huge storm, which allowed her to push more water ashore. Ida is a bit more compact, although there are plans to expand.
Friday, Jeff Masters and Bob Henson of Yale Climate Connections expressed cautious optimism that flood protection upgrades in New Orleans would be effective:
[The city’s Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS)] consists of a 139-mile dike system, walls and gates designed to protect against a 100-year storm surge, which is equivalent to what a Category 3 hurricane would bring. flood protection system in 2012 underwent severe testing with Hurricane Isaac. Isaac was a large, slow-moving Category 1 storm with winds of 80 mph that brought New Orleans a storm surge characteristic of a Category 2 storm. A surge of up to 12 to 14 feet attacked portions of the new dike system. The new flood defenses performed admirably, giving assurances that they can withstand the 15 foot storm surge that a 1 in 100 year Category 3 hurricane could bring.
The other wild card is whether or not Ida is moving east of her current path to line up New Orleans for a direct hit.
Louisiana has been one of the states most affected by the Delta variant over the past two months. As the number of new cases has fallen from its peak in recent weeks, hospitals across the state continue to tackle severe cases. Because of the tension, New York Times reports that hospitals in Louisiana were unable to complete their normal preparations for a storm the size of Ida:
Louisiana Medical Director Dr Joseph Kanter on Friday urged residents to avoid unnecessary emergency room visits in order to preserve the state’s hospital capacity, which has been significantly reduced by its most severe wave of Covid in the pandemic. And while there are plans to transfer patients from coastal areas to inland hospitals before a hurricane, this time “evacuations are just not possible,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement. press conference.
“Hospitals have no room,” he says. “We have no place to bring these patients – neither in-state nor out of state.” The governor said authorities had asked hospitals to check generators and stockpile more water, oxygen and personal protective supplies than usual for a storm.
This has been updated to include new details and reports.