Hurricane Ida has strengthened to Category 4 (out of 5) and is expected to hit Louisiana soil this afternoon, causing serious flooding. According to the NHC (US National Hurricane Center) in Miami, the winds that accompany the torrential rains now exceed 209 km/h.
Thousands of residents of three American states —Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama— fled the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to escape the hurricane, labeled “extremely dangerous” by US authorities. Category 4 is the second highest on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricanes.
Louisiana declared a state of emergency as the weather phenomenon approached. State Governor John Bel Edwards said Ida will be one of the biggest storms to hit the United States since the 1850s. President Joe Biden has pledged federal aid in advance to areas that will be affected.
Roads heading to the north of the United States experienced traffic jams yesterday, with drivers rushing to leave the region on the verge of the hurricane’s arrival in the Gulf. Traffic was heavy out of New Orleans and other cities after the official call for residents to flee or seek shelter.
Today, it’s been exactly 16 years since Katrina flooded 80% of New Orleans, leaving 1,800 dead and billions of dollars in damage. The city’s mayor, LaToya Cantrell, warned residents to take Ida very seriously. “Time is not on our side,” she said.
Southern Louisiana prepares for massive damage and flooding, with rains of up to 50 centimeters predicted in some locations. “Prolonged power loss is almost certain,” warned New Orleans security director Collin Arnold. “I beg you to take this storm seriously,” he added.
President Joe Biden said he had sent hundreds of emergency service members to the region, along with food, water and electric generators. Shelters have been prepared to receive displaced people.
Louisiana has been one of the states most battered by the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, Biden urged the population to continue wearing masks and to take precautions.
“Deadly cyclonic tide”
The US National Weather Service predicts a “potentially deadly cyclonic tide” when the hurricane touches land along the Louisiana and Mississippi coast, warning of “catastrophic wind damage” that could produce tornadoes.
Ida played the west coast of Cuba on Friday night (27), still in category 1, with winds of about 128 km/h. The storm knocked down trees, damaged roofs and caused power lines to go out, causing power cuts, according to the website of the official Granma newspaper.
In Mexico, a week after Grace’s passing, Category 1 Hurricane Nora hit the ground in the state of Jalisco last night on the Pacific coast. According to the NHC bulletin, Nora caused torrential rains off the coast of Jalisco and the state of Nayarit.
Scientists have warned of an increase in the number of strong cyclones as the ocean’s surface warms from global warming, which poses an ever-increasing threat to coastal communities around the world.
With information from AFP