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Home / News / World /  ‘Extremely dangerous’ hurricane Ida makes landfall in Louisiana with major force

Hurricane Ida barreled into the Louisiana coast on Sunday, packing winds more powerful than Hurricane Katrina and a devastating storm surge that threatens to inundate New Orleans with mass flooding, power outages and destruction.

The Category 4 storm roared ashore at 11:55 a.m. local time near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, with top winds of 150 miles (240 kilometers) per hour, the National Hurricane Center said. It comes on the 16th anniversary of Katrina’s landfall, which left the region in ruins and killed more than 1,800 people.

Ida, so sprawling that its tropical-force winds extend 140 miles, will be a bruising test for the region’s levees and infrastructure rebuilt after Katrina. It arrives on the heels of a United Nations scientific report warning that weather will only grow more extreme as global warming intensifies. Six tropical cyclones have now struck the U.S. this year. Floods killed 20 people this month in Tennessee. And drought- and heat-wave-fueled wildfires are raging in California, Minnesota, Greece and Turkey.

Ida hits Louisiana at a particularly vulnerable moment. The state’s hospitals are already overwhelmed with more than 2,600 coronavirus patients. Just 41% of the population is fully vaccinated.

“I feel sick to my stomach watching," Eric Blake, a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center said on Twitter. “This is a very sobering morning."

Also See: Tracking Hurricane Ida’s Projected Path

Ida, which came ashore about 60 miles south of New Orleans, is expected to drive up ocean levels as much as 16 feet (4.9 meters) and dump 2 feet of rain. Winds will be strong enough to rip roofs from houses, and snap trees and power poles. Blackouts could last weeks. About 80,000 homes and businesses were without power at 11:20 a.m. local time, according to Poweroutage.us, which tracks utility outages.

In addition to Ida, the hurricane center is tracking Tropical Storm Julian in the central Atlantic, as well as three other potential storms there. Meanwhile, Hurricane Nora is raking Mexico’s Pacific coast. 

New Orleans asked residents to evacuate or take shelter. The levee gates are closed in many areas and hospital wards were cleared out. Most oil production in the Gulf of Mexico is shut down. Thousands of people have fled the region. 

Hurricane Ida May Damage Almost 1 Million Homes on U.S. Gulf

Ralph Tovar, a visitor from Chicago who was stranded in New Orleans because his flight was canceled, tore apart a plastic umbrella bag to fashion a rain-proof hood as he stood inside the oldest cathedral in the U.S., St. Louis Cathedral, as the first gales began to lash the city.

“It’s in God’s hands now," Tovar said in an interview. “Hopefully, we can get out Tuesday. Stay safe everyone and try to stay inside."

The storm could damage close to 1 million homes along the coast, according to CoreLogic. It’s forecast to run directly over chemical plants, refineries and the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port. All told, damages and losses could exceed $40 billion, said Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler at Enki Research. 

Also See: As Ida Bears Down, New Orleans Faces Biggest Post-Katrina Test

“It could be catastrophic," said Jim Rouiller, lead meteorologist at the Energy Weather Group.

In the hours before landfall, sidewalks and normally bustling squares in the heart of the city’s tourist district were deserted. Trash cans tipped over in the wind and rolled in the street.  

Even if the levee system holds and keeps the surge at bay, New Orleans could face a major flood risk from the rain alone, said Ryan Truchelut, president of Weather Tiger LCC. FEMA has deployed about 2,500 people to Louisiana and states including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas.  

President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency for Louisiana. New Orleans is below sea level and depends on levees and pumps to keep the ocean and river out. The Mississippi River in downtown New Orleans has already risen about 2 feet from Saturday and is forecast to rise 4 feet higher later Sunday, the National Weather Service said. 

As of Sunday, 537 flights had been canceled in New Orleans, Dallas, and Houston through Monday, according to FlightAware, an airline tracking service. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport was thronged with local residents lining up for outbound flights or trying to rent vehicles to flee the city. Queues at rental car kiosks were hours long.

Oil, Crops

Oil explorers bracing for the storm have already halted the equivalent of more than 1.2 million barrels of daily crude production. Royal Dutch Shell Plc, BP Plc and others are shutting offshore platforms and evacuating crews. 

The Gulf is home to 16% of U.S. crude production, 2% of its natural gas output, and 48% of the nation’s refining capacity. After Ida comes ashore, it could also flood cotton, corn, soybean and sugarcane crops, said Don Keeney, a meteorologist with commercial forecaster Maxar. 

In addition to Ida, the hurricane center is tracking three more potential storms in the Atlantic and Hurricane Nora which is raking Mexico’s Pacific coast.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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