Federal forecasters say Tropical Storm Ida will rapidly strengthen and strike the Gulf Coast as a powerful category 3 hurricane on Sunday, Aug. 29, bringing with it the possibility of life-threatening wind, tornadoes, flooding, and storm surge throughout Louisiana and Mississippi. Ida, the ninth one named in the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, strengthened to wind speeds of 65 miles-per-hour this morning as it neared western Cuba.
“Ida is still on track to enter the Gulf late tonight and rapidly intensify as it tracks north. Confidence has increased that it will be a major hurricane by landfall on Sunday afternoon,” the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said in a tweet this afternoon. “Areas on the coast and further inland should prepare now!”
If the current forecast for it to become a category 3 hurricane holds, Ida would boast wind speeds of between 111 and 129 miles-per-hour by the time it makes landfall Sunday morning—on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s arrival on the Gulf Coast as a category 3 storm.
“Ida is expected to be a dangerous major hurricane when it reaches the northern Gulf Coast on Sunday, and the risk of hurricane-force winds continues to increase, especially along portions of the Louisiana coast, including metropolitan New Orleans,” the National Hurricane Center said in a statement today. “Potentially devastating wind damage could occur where the core of Ida moves onshore.”
Risk Of Life-Threatening Storm Surge ‘Increasing’
The current trajectory shows Ida making landfall as a hurricane somewhere along the Louisiana or Mississippi coasts, though Alabama could also endure tropical storm-force winds. This morning, the federal forecasters warned that the dangers are mounting.
“The risk of life-threatening storm surge inundation is increasing along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama,” the National Hurricane Center said. “Inundation of 7 to 11 feet above ground level is possible within the area from Morgan City, Louisiana, to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, including Lake Borgne. Interests in these areas should follow any advice given by local officials.”
At 10:46 a.m., the National Weather Service issued a hurricane watch and storm-surge watch for Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties. A tropical storm watch is also now in effect for Stone and George counties. The NWS is also warning counties further inland about the possibility of flooding, tornadoes and hurricane or tropical storm-force winds.
“Now is the time to check your emergency plan and emergency supplies kit and take necessary actions to protect your family and secure your home or business,” the NWS said in a statement this morning on the threat facing Mississippians along the Gulf Coast and further inland across south Mississippi. “When making safety and preparedness decisions, do not focus on the exact forecast track since hazards such as flooding rain, damaging wind gusts, storm surge, and tornadoes extend well away from the center of the storm.”
Louisiana Requests Federal Emergency Declaration
Yesterday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards requested a federal declaration of emergency in a letter to President Joe Biden.
“Unfortunately, Louisiana is forecast to get a direct, strong hit from Tropical Storm Ida, which could make landfall as a major hurricane, a category 3, which is compounded by our current fourth surge of COVID-19. This is an incredibly challenging time for our state,” Edwards said in a statement.
In his letter to the president, Edwards said that, for the time being, “Louisiana intends to conduct traditional sheltering operations for evacuees.”
“However, due to the dangers presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, our normal capacity is limited. Should the number of evacuees exceed our capacity, we will need to conduct non-congregate sheltering (NCS) or point-to-point sheltering with other states,” Edwards said. “All of these options will be difficult to complete while maintaining compliance with COVID mitigation measures, and federal assistance will be needed for Louisiana to successfully complete safe sheltering operations.”
MSEMA: ‘Use Public Shelters As Last Resort’ Due To COVID
A CDC document posted on the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency’s website, lays out details on the COVID-19 era evacuee sheltering guidelines.
“Due to COVID-19, we encourage you to seek shelter with family or friends out of the impacted area. Please use public shelters as a last resort,” MSEMA says on its website. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has not yet addressed his state’s preparations for the storm.
MSEMA urges residents to prepare for hurricanes “by developing a family emergency plan, learning evacuation routes and assembling a three to five-day disaster supply kit.”
The agency says a kit should include a flashlight and battery-powered radio with extra batteries; canned and non-perishable food; bottled water; toiletry items; pet food and supplies; medicine and prescription medicine; copies of important family papers and documents; and personal protective equipment.
MEMA provides more hurricane preparedness information on its website, including evacuation routes and its 2021 Emergency Guide, which is also available in Spanish.