Louisiana Gov. Says Hurricane Ida Could be One of the Strongest to Hit State Since 1850s

Interstate 10 is packed with evacuees heading east on Saturday as Hurricane Ida approaches. Photograph: Scott Threlkeld/AP

As Hurricane Ida barrelled towards the Louisiana coast, residents braced for a storm of potentially historic proportions due to arrive on the 16th anniversary of Katrina, the brutal hurricane that claimed more than 1,800 lives on America’s Gulf coast.

National Weather Service officials announced on Saturday night that Ida continued to strengthen in the Gulf of Mexico and was set to become a category 3 hurricane overnight, before making landfall on Sunday afternoon as a potential category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 130mph (210 km/h), life-threatening storm surges and heavy rain.

State officials warned that Ida was likely to become one of the worst hurricanes in the history of Louisiana, a region known for torrid weather events.

“This will be one of the strongest hurricanes to hit anywhere in Louisiana since at least the 1850s,” said Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards at a press conference on Saturday. “We can also tell you your window of time is closing. It is rapidly closing.”

Tens of thousands of residents in coastal communities in south-east Louisiana were under mandatory evacuation orders. In New Orleans, the city placed those living outside the levee protection system under mandatory evacuation and urged all others to leave voluntarily. There was gridlock on the main highway leaving the city and vast queues at the Louis Armstrong international airport, as officials announced all flights would be cancelled on Sunday.

It was 29 August 2005 when New Orleans and other communities in the region were decimated by Katrina and the subsequent government failures in response. Hundreds of thousands of homes were lost after the city’s levee system failed, leading to catastrophic flooding. The city took years to recover.

On Saturday, Edwards pointed to billions of dollars in federal government investment in the city’s levees to argue the city was better prepared over a decade later.

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SOURCE: The Guardian, Oliver Laughland

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