Communities along the US Gulf coast are braced for a potentially significant hurricane over the weekend as Tropical Storm Ida barrels towards the US and the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned of increased risk of life-threatening weather conditions from Sunday evening into Monday morning.
Hurricane warnings were issued across coastal communities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, along with the city of New Orleans itself on Thursday night as Louisiana’s governor, John Bel Edwards, declared a state of emergency ahead of Ida’s expected upgrade to a hurricane with potential for 110mph winds.
Ida became the ninth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season on Thursday as it formed out in the Caribbean Sea and is expected to hit western Cuba as a tropical storm on Friday afternoon. It could lead to life-threatening heavy rain, flash flooding and mudslides in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands on Friday morning.
The NHC warned the storm was likely to rapidly intensify before reaching the US over the weekend and could bring rainfall amounts of 8 to 15in.
“Unfortunately, all of Louisiana’s coastline is currently in the forecast cone for Tropical Storm Ida, which is strengthening and could come ashore in Louisiana as a major hurricane as Gulf conditions are conducive for rapid intensification,” said r Edwards in a statement on Thursday evening.
“This type of threat contains additional problems because the window to prepare is so short. By Saturday evening, everyone should be in the location where they intend to ride out the storm,” he added.
Sunday also marks the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall in Louisiana, which decimated New Orleans and other coastal communities back in 2005.
Current models suggest Ida could come ashore as a category 2 hurricane with the NHC warning of increased risk of life-threatening storm surge. By late Thursday evening the storm was moving at 12mph (19 km/h) with sustained winds of 40mph (64 km/h).
Last year there were 30 named Atlantic storms, including seven major hurricanes, a record high. Experts have linked the climate crisis and global heating to the increased frequency of more powerful and destructive weather systems.
The storm arrives following a summer of extreme weather events in the US, including severe wildfires on the west coast and deadly flooding in Tennessee earlier in the month.