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Grand Cayman residents breathed a collective sigh of relief after Tropical Storm Ida veered east of the island early Friday morning. Now, Ida is set to hit the United States as an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 hurricane.
The storm reached the Isle of Youth in Cuba on Friday afternoon as a Category 1 hurricane, with sustained winds of 75 miles per hours and higher gusts.
According to a bulletin issued at 10am Saturday morning by the US National Hurricane Center, Ida is expected to strengthen rapidly before arriving at the coast of Louisiana Sunday as a Category 4 storm, bringing winds of up to 140mph, heavy rainfall and storm surges.
Residents on Saturday were evacuating New Orleans as the storm neared. Ida is expected to hit the city on the 16th anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Katrina, which was a Category 3 storm when it smashed into New Orleans on 29 Aug. 2005.
According to local media reports, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell ordered a mandatory evacuation for areas outside the city’s levee system and a voluntary evacuation for residents inside the levee system. However, as Ida rapidly escalated in intensity, the mayor said it wasn’t feasible to order a mandatory evacuation for the entire city.
“The city cannot order a mandatory evacuation because we don’t have the time,” Cantrell said.
The National Hurricane Centre said that, after landfall, the storm is expected to weaken rapidly and become a tropical depression by Monday night.
As of 10am, the system was moving northwest at 16mph, with sustained winds of 85mph. After landfall in the US, forecasters say the storm is likely to turn northward, and then northeastward.
The NHC said there is a danger of life-threatening storm surges of 9 feet or higher on Sunday along the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi.
“Hurricane-force winds are expected Sunday in portions of the Hurricane Warning area along the Louisiana coast, including metropolitan New Orleans, with potentially catastrophic wind damage possible where the core of Ida moves onshore,” the NHC bulletin stated.