Hurricane Ida is expected to reach an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane, with top winds of 225 km/h before making landfall likely west of New Orleans late Sunday (AP)
“Today is it,” Jamie Rhome, acting deputy director of the US National Hurricane Centre in Miami, said Saturday.
“If you’re in coastal Louisiana and Mississippi, you really, really have to get going because today is it in terms of protecting life and property.”
Late Saturday morning, Ida was centred 710 kilometres southeast of Houma, a city on Louisiana’s coast. It was travelling northwest at 26 km/h, forecasters said. It’s maximum sustained winds were 140km/h.
Authorities called a combination of voluntary and mandatory evacuations for cities and communities across the region. News footage from the area showed traffic backed up heading out of New Orleans.
In New Orleans the mayor ordered a mandatory evacuation for areas outside the city’s levee system and a voluntary evacuation for residents inside the levee system. But since the storm quickly escalated in intensity, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said it was not possible to order a mandatory evacuation for the entire city, which would require using all lanes of some highways to leave the city.
“If you plan to evacuate, do so now,” said a mid-morning advisory from the city.
In text alerts Saturday, New Orleans officials urged residents to “leave by this morning if you can.”
“If you’re staying, gather supplies, charge devices, lower fridge temp & secure outdoor items today,” the message said.
In New Orleans, city officials said residents need to be prepared for prolonged power outages, and asked elderly residents to consider evacuating. Collin Arnold, the city’s emergency management director, said the city could be under high winds for about 10 hours.
State officials also texted residents: “Get ready for Ida.”
“Louisianans have until nightfall,” the text warned, adding that Ida will “bring serious impacts across the state.”
Across the region, residents filled sandbags, got gasoline for cars and generators and stocked up on food. Capt. Ross Eichorn, a fishing guide on the coast about 112 kilometres southwest of New Orleans, said he fears warm Gulf waters will “make a monster” out of Ida.
“With a direct hit, ain’t no telling what’s going to be left — if anything,” Eichorn said.
A hurricane warning was issued for most of the Louisiana coast from Intracoastal City to the mouth of the Pearl River, including metropolitan New Orleans. A tropical storm warning was extended to the Alabama-Florida line.