By KEVIN McGILL and JANET McCONNAUGHEY, Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Hurricane Ida struck Cuba on Friday and threatened to slam into Louisiana with devastating power over the weekend, prompting evacuations in New Orleans and throughout the coastal area.
Ida intensified quickly Friday from a tropical storm to a hurricane with prime winds of 80 mph (128 kph) because it crossed western Cuba and entered the Gulf of Mexico. The National Hurricane Center predicted Ida would strengthen into an especially harmful Category 4 hurricane, with prime winds of 140 mph (225 kph) earlier than making landfall alongside the U.S. Gulf Coast late Sunday.
“This shall be a life-altering storm for many who aren’t ready,” National Weather Service meteorologist Benjamin Schott mentioned throughout a Friday news convention with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.
The governor urged residents to shortly put together, saying: “By dusk tomorrow night time, you want to be the place you propose to be to trip out the storm.”
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New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell ordered a compulsory evacuation for a small space of the town outdoors the levee system. But with the storm intensifying a lot over a short while, she mentioned it wasn’t doable to achieve this for your entire metropolis. That typically requires utilizing all lanes of some highways to depart the town.
“The metropolis can’t order a compulsory evacuation as a result of we don’t have the time,” Cantrell mentioned.
City officers mentioned residents want to be ready for extended energy outages, and requested aged residents to take into account evacuating. Collin Arnold, the town’s emergency administration director, mentioned the town could possibly be below excessive winds for about ten hours.
Other areas throughout the coastal area had been below a mixture of voluntary and obligatory evacuations. The storm is predicted to make landfall on the precise date Hurricane Katrina devastated a big swath of the Gulf Coast precisely 16 years earlier. Capt. Ross Eichorn, a fishing information on the coast about 70 miles (112 kilometers) southwest of New Orleans, mentioned he fears heat Gulf waters will “make a monster” out of Ida.
“With a direct hit, ain’t no telling what’s going to be left — if something,” Eichorn mentioned. He added: “Anybody that isn’t involved has bought one thing fallacious with them.”
A hurricane warning was issued for many of the Louisiana coast from Intracoastal City to the mouth of the Pearl River. A tropical storm warning was prolonged to the Mississippi-Alabama line.
Officials determined in opposition to evacuating New Orleans hospitals. There’s little room for his or her sufferers elsewhere, with hospitals from Texas to Florida already reeling from a spike in coronavirus sufferers, mentioned Dr. Jennifer Avengo, the town’s well being director.
At the state’s largest hospital system, Ochsner Health System, officers ordered 10 days price of gasoline, meals, medicine and different provides and have backup gasoline contracts for its turbines. One constructive was that the variety of COVID-19 sufferers had dropped from 988 to 836 over the previous week — a 15% decline.
President Joe Biden permitted a federal emergency declaration for Louisiana forward of the storm. White House press secretary Jen Psaki mentioned FEMA plans to ship almost 150 medical personnel and nearly 50 ambulances to the Gulf Coast to help strained hospitals.
Ida made its first landfall Friday afternoon on Cuba’s southern Isle of Youth. The Cuban authorities issued a hurricane warning for its westernmost provinces, the place forecasters mentioned as a lot as 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain may fall in locations, probably unleashing lethal flash floods and mudslides.
Ivonne Deulofeu, who lives within the western city of Vinales, mentioned robust winds endured for hours on Friday.
“It shook us up arduous. It was actually scary,” Deulofeu mentioned. “We had to nail the doorways of the rooms… The crops, they’re all gone.”
Col. Noel Lozano of Cuban Civil Defense mentioned over 10,000 individuals had been evacuated in Pinar del Rio province, most to stick with relations. There had been no fast stories of deaths.
Late Friday night time, the storm was 105 miles (165 kilometers) west of Havana and touring northwest at 15 mph (24 kph).
An even larger hazard will then start over the Gulf, the place forecasts had been aligned in predicting Ida will strengthen in a short time into a significant hurricane earlier than landfall within the Mississippi River delta late Sunday, the hurricane middle mentioned.
If that forecast holds true, Ida would hit 16 years to the day that Hurricane Katrina made landfall as a Category 3 storm with 125 mph (201 kph) winds close to the riverside group of Buras, simply down the Mississippi River from New Orleans.
Katrina is blamed for an estimated 1,800 deaths from the central Louisiana coast to across the Mississippi-Alabama state line. An enormous storm surge scoured the shores and wiped homes off the map. In New Orleans, failures of federal levees led to catastrophic flooding. Water coated 80% of the town and plenty of houses had been swamped to the rooftops. Some victims drowned of their attics. The Superdome and New Orleans Convention Center grew to become scenes of sweltering distress as tens of hundreds had been stranded with out energy or working water.
Memories of Katrina nonetheless hang-out many who scrambled to put together for Ida on Friday, lining up for groceries, fuel and ice, in addition to sandbags that the town was providing.
Traffic snarled at entrances to a New Orleans Costco, the place dozens of automobiles had been backed up on the fuel pumps and buyers wheeled out carts stacked with circumstances of bottled water and different necessities.
Retired police officer Wondell Smith, who labored on the police power when Katrina hit, mentioned he and his household had been planning to keep, however had been additionally preparing to head farther inland if the forecasts worsened. He loaded water, bread and sandwich meat into his SUV.
“I do know what that appears like,” Smith mentioned, referring to the potential devastation. “This is my first time being house in 34 years of service,” he added. “And I need to be ready.”
Saturday’s preseason NFL game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Saints on the Superdome was first moved up seven hours to keep away from the climate, after which canceled altogether.
The hurricane middle predicted the height storm surge may attain 10 ft to 15 ft (3 to 4.5 meters) alongside the Louisiana coast, with a doable surge of seven to 11 ft (2.1 to 3.4 meters) within the New Orleans space. The storm’s observe put New Orleans on the japanese aspect — typically known as the soiled aspect — which typically sees rather more vital results than the western aspect.
“Being east of this storm’s observe isn’t excellent,” mentioned Arnold.
This story has been up to date to appropriate the identify of the Louisiana governor. It is John Bel Edwards, not John Bell Edwards.
Associated Press contributors embrace Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Jeff Martin in Marietta, Georgia; Darlene Superville in Washington; Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland and Andrea Rodriguez in Havana, Cuba.
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