Storm Ida could slam into Louisiana as a Category 3 hurricane

Short clip shows tropical storm ida passing over western cuba
(Image credit: NOAA / NESDIS)

Tropical storm Ida is gaining strength as it barrels through the Caribbean Sea and is expected to be a "dangerous major hurricane" when it slams into the northern Gulf Coast on Sunday (Aug. 29), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned Friday morning (Aug. 27).

The NHC defines a major hurricane as a Category 3 or higher, meaning Ida could reach maximum sustained winds of 111 mph (178.6 km/h) or greater by the time it reaches the Louisiana coast; Ida would be the fourth hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic season. As of now, the storm is projected to hit Louisiana as a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds around 115 mph (185 km/h), Buzzfeed News reported

Assuming Ida follows its projected path, the storm could hit on the 16th anniversary of when Hurricane Katrina made landfall near New Orleans in 2005.

Related: The 20 costliest, most destructive hurricanes to hit the US  

A hurricane watch is now in effect between Cameron, Louisiana and the Mississippi-Alabama border, as well as the Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and metropolitan New Orleans areas, the NHC announced. And as Ida draws near, life-threatening storm surges could occur from the Sabine Pass, at the border of Texas and Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida border. Vermilion Bay, Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and Mobile Bay are also under storm surge watches. 

If peak storm surges coincide with high tide, the surges could reach as high as 11 feet (3.3 meters) above ground level in the region between Morgan City, Louisiana and Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 

Tropical-storm-force winds currently extend up to 90 miles (145 kilometers) from the center of the approaching cyclone. Once Ida hits the U.S., tropical storm conditions could potentially occur anywhere between the Mississippi-Alabama border and the Alabama-Florida border, the NHC stated. 

The storm could bring an estimated 8 to 16 inches (20 to 41 centimeters) of rainfall to regions between southeast Louisiana to coastal Mississippi and Alabama, with isolated areas getting up to 20 inches (51 cm) of rain. Heavy rains are expected to last through Monday morning (Aug. 30). As the storm moves inland, it could bring about 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) of rain to southern and central Mississippi. 

"This is likely to result in considerable flash, urban, small stream and riverine flooding," according to the NHC.

Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana declared a state of emergency on Thursday (Aug. 26), urging the states' residents to prepare for the coming storm.

"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," Edwards said in a statement. "Now is the time for people to finalize their emergency game plan, which should take into account the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic."

"By Saturday evening, everyone should be in the location where they intend to ride out the storm," he said.

Read here to learn more about how to prepare for potential hurricane conditions. 

Originally published on Live Science.

Nicoletta Lanese
Channel Editor, Health

Nicoletta Lanese is the health channel editor at Live Science and was previously a news editor and staff writer at the site. She holds a graduate certificate in science communication from UC Santa Cruz and degrees in neuroscience and dance from the University of Florida. Her work has appeared in The Scientist, Science News, the Mercury News, Mongabay and Stanford Medicine Magazine, among other outlets. Based in NYC, she also remains heavily involved in dance and performs in local choreographers' work.