The mayor of New Orleans on Friday night warned residents to “hunker down” ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Ida — which is threatening to slam the city as a dangerous Category 4 storm.
“Time is not on our side,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said at a press conference on Friday night.
“Shelter in place. Hunker down. It is vitally important.”
The National Hurricane Center predicted Ida would strengthen into a potentially devastating Category 4 storm, with winds of up 140 mph, by the time it makes landfall in the Gulf Coast on Sunday night — the exact date Hurricane Katrina devastated the area 16 years ago.
“This will be a life-altering storm for those who aren’t prepared,” National Weather Service meteorologist Benjamin Schott said during a Friday news conference with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.
The governor urged residents to prepare, saying, “By nightfall tomorrow night, you need to be where you intend to be to ride out the storm.”
Cantrell earlier on Friday ordered a mandatory evacuation for a small area of the city outside the levee system.
But Ida intensified so rapidly over the last day, that it was too late to declare mandatory evacuations in the city in areas inside of the city’s levee protection system.
The mayor recommended all residents find a place to shelter by midnight on Saturday if they chose not to voluntarily evacuate, which she encouraged.
“[Hurricane Ida] has developed more rapidly than anyone was prepared for and there are no indications at all that it will weaken,” she said.
“Therefore the situation is much more serious than it was six hours ago and Hurricane Ida represents a dramatic threat to the people of the city of New Orleans.”
“We need to take this storm very seriously,” Cantrell continued. “Now is not the time for jokes, for playing around. We need to take it seriously.”
The city is preparing a “possibly catastrophic storm surge” that could reach 10-15 feet in the area between the mouth of the Mississippi river west to Morgan City, with other areas also expected to experience significant surge.
Intense winds are expected to knock out power for days, and 16 to 20 inches of rain will dump on the city over the course of two days, according to the latest update from the National Weather Service in New Orleans on Friday night.
“There’s indications it could be stronger than we’re forecasting for right now,” said NWS Meteorologist Christopher Bannan.
“After this makes landfall it is not going to be a pleasant time down here,” he said, as he warned those who can to evacuate the area.
“We’re not trying to scare you, we’re not trying to overhype this … we would rather you be overprepared,” he said.
The storm was pounding the western coast of Cuba Friday, and is then expected to move northwest.
The National Guard has already been prepared for deployment, according to Cantrell. If post-storm evacuations are necessary, she said that the state has contracted 125 coach buses ready for deployment to get people out.
Edwards on Friday declared a state of emergency and sent a request to President Joe Biden for a “pre-landfall” federal declaration of emergency.
“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.