NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Hurricane Ida blasted ashore along the Louisiana coast on Sunday, with the eye of one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the U.S. arriving near the barrier island of Grand Isle.
The powerful Category 4 storm made landfall on the same date Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi 16 years earlier, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of where Category 3 Katrina first struck land.
Arriving with a barometric pressure of 930 millibars, Ida preliminarily goes down as tied for the fifth strongest hurricane to make landfall in the United States based on wind speed. Based on central pressure it is tied for 9th strongest U.S. landfall.
Ida rapidly intensified overnight as it moved through some of the warmest ocean water in the world in the northern Gulf of Mexico, its top winds grew by 45 mph (72 kph) to 150 mph (230 kph) in five hours.
Hurricane force winds started to strike Grand Isle on Sunday morning. Before power was lost on the Louisiana barrier island, a beachfront web camera showed the ocean steadily rising as growing waves churned and palm trees whipped. More than 100,000 customers had lost power in Louisiana by noon and were without electricity, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks outages nationwide.
Wind tore at awnings and water began spilling out of Lake Ponchartrain in New Orleans. Officials there said Ida’s swift intensification from a few thunderstorms to massive hurricane over three days left no time to organize a mandatory evacuation of its 390,000 residents.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell urged residents to leave voluntarily. Those who stayed were warned to prepare for long power outages amid sweltering heat.
In Port Fourchon, boats and helicopters gathered to take workers and supplies to oil platforms in the ocean and the oil extracted starts it journey toward refineries. The port handles about a fifth of the nation’s domestic oil and gas, officials said.
Along with the oil industry, Ida threatened a region already reeling from a resurgence of COVID-19 infections, due to low vaccination rates and the highly contagious delta variant. More than 2 million people live around New Orleans, Baton Rouge and the wetlands to the south.
New Orleans hospitals planned to ride out the storm with their beds nearly full, as similarly stressed hospitals elsewhere had little room for evacuated patients. And shelters for those fleeing their homes carried an added risk of becoming flashpoints for new infections.
Forecasters warned winds stronger than 115 mph (185 kph) were expected soon in Houma, a city of 33,000 that supports oil platforms in the Gulf and Gulfport, Mississippi, to the east of New Orleans was seeing the ocean rise and heavy rains bands.
Gov. John Bel Edwards vowed Louisiana’s “resilient and tough people” would weather the storm.