Hurricane Ida whipped western Cuba on Friday and the Category 1 storm is expected to slam the US Gulf Coast as an even stronger cyclone Sunday, putting states from Louisiana to Florida on alert for fierce destruction.
Ida briefly will reach Category 4 strength before striking the southern Louisiana coast Sunday evening as a Category 3 storm, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said.
“Ida is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane when it approaches the northern Gulf coast on Sunday,” the hurricane center noted.
Leaders in Louisiana and elsewhere issued mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders Friday in anticipation of major damage.
In New Orleans, Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued a mandatory evacuation of all city areas that are outside its flood protection system, as well as a voluntary evacuation alert for the rest of the parish.
New Orleans is part of an area where a storm surge could combine with high tide to send 11 feet of water onshore Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said.
“We are activating every single resource at our disposal, so that we are prepared to respond,” Cantrell said Friday.
The mayor urged residents to have hurricane preparations in place by Saturday afternoon. “Do not wait,” she said.
Later she announced that the National Weather Service and Governor John Bel Edwards have indicated there is no time for implementing contraflow traffic so there won’t be new mandatory evacuations.
“The situation is much more serious than it was six hours ago, and the hurricane, it represents a dramatic threat to the people of the city of New Orleans. Time is not on our side,” Cantrell said.
According to Collin Arnold, director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, the city is anticipating impacts from damaging winds up to 110 miles an hour.