Ida slammed into Cuba as a hurricane on Friday — and is expected to grow into a terrifying Category 3 one due to hit New Orleans on the 16th anniversary of Katrina.
“The forecast track has it headed straight towards New Orleans. Not good,” said Jim Kossin, a senior scientist with The Climate Service.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell ordered the evacuation of everyone living outside the levee system, which was overwhelmed by catastrophic flooding when Katrina hit in 2005, killing an estimated 1,800 people.
“Now is the time,” Cantrell said, without detailing exactly how many citizens were affected, while also closing schools on Monday.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency and sent a request to President Joe Biden for a “pre-landfall” federal declaration of emergency, he said Friday.
“Unfortunately, Louisiana is forecast to get a direct, strong hit from Tropical Storm #Ida, which is compounded by our current fourth surge of COVID-19. This is an incredibly challenging time for our state,” Edwards tweeted.
“The time for the people of Louisiana to prepare for this strong storm is now,” he said.
The latest tropical storm officially became a hurricane Friday as it made landfall on Cuba’s southern coast with maximum winds of 75 mph, and even higher gusts, the National Hurricane Center said.
The Cuban government issued a hurricane warning for its westernmost provinces, where forecasters said as much as 20 inches of rain could fall in places, possibly unleashing deadly flash floods and mudslides.
It is expected to be even more dangerous when it is scheduled to reach New Orleans on Sunday, exactly 16 years to the day Katrina hit.
Ida is forecast to reach 120 mph before making landfall in the Mississippi River delta late Sunday, endangering the coast lines of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, the hurricane center said.
That would make its force similar to Katrina, which was also a Category 3 storm with 125 mph winds, causing catastrophic flooding covering 80 percent of the city after the federal levees failed.
Memories of Katrina still haunt many who scrambled to prepare for Ida on Friday, lining up for groceries, gas, ice and sandbags.
“I know what that looks like,” said Wondell Smith, a retired cop who was working when Katrina hit, as he loaded water, bread and sandwich meat into his SUV.
“This is my first time being home in 34 years of service,” he added. “And I want to be prepared.”
Kickoff for Saturday’s preseason game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Saints at the Superdome was moved up seven hours to avoid the weather, to a noon Central Time start after consultation with city and federal officials and the National Weather Service.
Ida threatens “considerable flash, urban, small stream, and riverine flooding” across the whole region, the hurricane center said.
“Ida certainly has the potential to be very bad,” said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami. “It will be moving quickly, so the trek across the Gulf from Cuba to Louisiana will only take 1.5 days.”
Gov. Edwards stressed that “all of Louisiana’s coastline is currently in the forecast cone” for the storm.
With Post wires