Hurricane Ida strengthens, Louisiana braces for severe blow

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Forecasters warned residents on the bluish Gulf of Mexico seashore to unreserved preparations Saturday up of an intensifying Hurricane Ida, which is expected to bring winds arsenic precocious arsenic 130 mph (209 kph), life-threatening tempest surge and flooding rainfall erstwhile it slams ashore successful Louisiana connected Sunday.

The National Hurricane Center warned that super-warm Gulf waters could rapidly magnify Ida’s destructive power, boosting it from a Category 2 tempest to an highly unsafe Category 4 hurricane successful conscionable 18 hours oregon less.

Coastal highways saw dense postulation Saturday arsenic radical moved to flight the storm’s path. Trucks pulling saltwater sportfishing boats and campers streamed distant from the seashore Interstate 65 successful southbound Alabama. Traffic jams clogged Interstate 10 heading retired of New Orleans.

“We’re going to drawback it head-on,” said Bebe McElroy arsenic she prepared to permission her location successful the coastal Louisiana colony of Cocodrie. “I’m conscionable going astir praying, saying, ‘Dear Lord, conscionable ticker implicit us.’”

Ida was poised to onslaught Louisiana 16 years to the time aft Hurricane Katrina devastated the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts. A Category 3 storm, Katrina was blamed for 1,800 deaths and caused levee breaches and catastrophic flooding successful New Orleans, which took years to recover.

“We’re not the aforesaid authorities we were 16 years ago,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Saturday, pointing to a national levee strategy that’s seen large improvements since Katrina swamped New Orleans successful 2005.

“This strategy is going to beryllium tested,” Edwards said. “The radical of Louisiana are going to beryllium tested. But we are resilient and pugnacious people. And we’re going to get done this.”

Edwards said 5,000 National Guard troops were being staged successful 14 parishes for hunt and rescue efforts with high-water vehicles, boats and helicopters. And 10,000 linemen were connected standby to respond to electrical outages.

A tropical slump 2 days earlier, Ida was strengthening truthful rapidly that New Orleans officials said determination was nary clip to signifier a mandatory evacuation of the city’s 390,000 residents, a task that would necessitate coordinating with the authorities and neighboring locales to crook highways into one-way routes distant from the city.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell called for a voluntary evacuation and reiterated Saturday that the clip to safely permission was increasing short. City officials besides were preparing to unfastened shelters for anyone displaced by the storm. They besides warned those who stayed to beryllium prepared for agelong powerfulness outages amid sweltering vigor successful the days ahead.

Ramsey Green, the city’s apical infrastructure official, stressed that the levee and drainage systems protecting the metropolis person been overmuch improved since Katrina.

“That said, if we spot 10 to 20 inches of rainfall implicit an abbreviated play of time, we volition spot flooding,” helium said.

In Washington, President Joe Biden called Ida “very dangerous” and urged Americans “to wage attraction and beryllium prepared.” He spoke Saturday astatine the commencement of a virtual briefing with Federal Emergency Management Agency head Deanne Criswell connected tempest preparation.

Lines astatine state pumps and car rental agencies grew agelong arsenic residents and tourists alike prepared to permission Saturday.

“We were consenting to hold it retired but the edifice said we had to leave,” said visitant Lays Lafaurie of Fort Worth, Texas, waiting successful a rental car enactment astatine the city’s airport. “They said we had to permission by 7 time morning. But if we’d waited that agelong determination wouldn’t person been immoderate cars left.”

Ida posed a menace acold beyond New Orleans. A hurricane informing was issued for astir 200 miles (320 kilometers) of Louisiana’s coastline, from Intracoastal City southbound of Lafayette to the Mississippi authorities line. A tropical tempest informing was extended to the Alabama-Florida line, and Mobile Bay successful Alabama was nether a tempest surge watch.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared a authorities of exigency Saturday for the state’s coastal and occidental counties, informing Ida could bring flooding and tornadoes there.

In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves urged residents to enactment disconnected of interstate highways to marque country for radical fleeing Louisiana. He said 19 shelters had opened to instrumentality successful evacuees. Several casinos connected the Mississippi seashore had closed up of Ida.

Meteorologist Jeff Masters, who flew hurricane missions for the authorities and founded Weather Underground, said Ida is forecast to determination done “the conscionable implicit worst spot for a hurricane.”

“”There’s hundreds of large manufacture sites there, I mean petrochemical sites, 3 of the 15 largest ports successful America, a atomic powerfulness plant,” Masters said. “You’re astir apt going to unopen down the Mississippi River for barge postulation for aggregate weeks.”

Phillips 66 said it was shutting operations astatine its refinery successful Belle Chasse, Louisiana, based connected Ida’s projected path.

Many state stations successful and astir New Orleans were retired of gas, and the fewer inactive unfastened had lines much than a twelve cars deep.

Mike Laurent of Marrero, Louisiana, was filling up astir a twelve state canisters to substance his generator and those of friends and family. Laurent said helium and his household volition beryllium riding retired the tempest astatine location contempt concerns astir whether the adjacent levee would hold. It was reinforced aft Katrina successful 2005.

“I don’t deliberation it’s ever been tested similar it’s going to beryllium tested time oregon Monday,” Laurent said. “I bought a twelve beingness jackets, conscionable successful case.”

By Saturday afternoon, Ida was a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (168 kph) . The tempest was centered astir 325 miles (525 kilometers) southeast of coastal Houma, Louisiana, and was traveling northwest astatine 16 mph (26 kph).

In New Orleans, metropolis officials said residents request to beryllium prepared for prolonged powerfulness outages, and asked aged residents to see evacuating. Collin Arnold, the city’s exigency absorption director, said the metropolis could beryllium nether precocious winds for astir 10 hours.

Some ordinarily bustling businesses were closed Saturday. One fashionable meal spot was locked up choky with sandbags against the doorway to defender against flash floods.

Cuba started to cleanable up Saturday aft Ida tore done Isla de la Juventud and past occidental parts of the mainland. The tempest toppled trees and damaged crops and buildings. There were nary reported deaths.


Associated Press writers Stacey Plaisance and Janet McConnaughey successful New Orleans; Emily Wagster Pettus successful Jackson, Mississippi; Jeff Martin successful Marietta, Georgia; Seth Borenstein successful Kensington, Maryland; Frank Bajak successful Boston and Andrea Rodríguez successful Los Palacios, Cuba, contributed to this report.

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