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Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is warning residents in the path of Hurricane Ida to take the threat very seriously, saying meteorologists expect it to be historically massive.
“They are extremely confident in the current track and the intensity as forecasted for Hurricane Ida, and you really don’t hear them speaking very often about that level of confidence,” Edwards said of the experts at a news conference Saturday.
“This will be one of the strongest hurricanes to hit anywhere in Louisiana since at least the 1850s,” the governor said. He urged residents who wish to flee to do so as soon as possible, saying “your window of time is closing.”
“By the time you go to bed tonight, you need to be where you intend to ride the storm out and you need to be as prepared as you can be, because weather will start to deteriorate very quickly tomorrow,” Edwards said.
National Weather Service meteorologist Benjamin Schott said Friday that Ida “will be a life-altering storm for those who aren’t prepared.”
Ida is expected to make landfall Sunday ― exactly 16 years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005. Katrina made landfall along the southeast Florida coast before gaining power over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, hitting land in Louisiana and again in Mississippi. The storm was credited for more than 1,800 deaths and $100 billion in damage.
As was the case then, New Orleans is in the hurricane’s path. It is expected to make landfall as a Category 4 storm heading northwest before curving east over Mississippi and north toward West Virginia. Katrina made landfall as a Category 3 storm.
Infrastructure improvements mean Louisiana will be better protected from storm surge. Where Katrina brought a 20-foot surge to parts of the coast, Ida is expected to bring less, up to 15 feet of water. Combined with rain and winds that are expected to exceed that of Katrina, Hurricane Ida has elected leaders and FEMA workers bracing for calamity.
Edwards warned about the likelihood of flash flooding, calling it “a very real concern” because it “doesn’t take many hours of rain at the rate that they’re talking about before, that those rivers could be at flood stage.”
“This is a very large storm,” he added.