Hurricane Ida: What we know so far about storm set to be worst in Louisiana since 1850s

A hurricane thought to be one of the strongest storms to hit parts of America since the 1850s is set to cause chaos 16 years on from the devastating Hurricane Katrina.

Hurricane Ida (Credit: National Hurricane Center)

Katrina hit the gulf coast of the US on August 23 2005, and lasted until August 31. And with some parts of the States still feeling the effects today, the country is bracing itself for a destructive storm.

“We can sum it up by saying this will be one of the strongest hurricanes to hit anywhere in Louisiana since at least the 1850s,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards at a news conference, warning residents that their window to evacuate the area was closing.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Ida has already passed through the Cayman Islands as a tropical storm but is building power as it heads towards land in the US. It has already caused mass evacuations around Louisiana. Early on Sunday it became classed as a Catehory 3 storm, before being upgraded to Category 4 shortly after.

The power has been cut from many homes in New Orleans after hitting the Louisiana coast, and one person has been confirmed as dead in Prairieville.

What do the forecasters say?

Kevin Gilmore, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in New Orleans, said the hurricane will have “life-threatening impacts.”

“We’re not saying, ‘possible’ — we’re saying, ‘will occur,’ because we want people to take this extremely seriously,” Mr. Gilmore said. “I cannot stress enough how significant of a situation this is.”

The National Weather Service issued several extreme wind warnings for parts of south east Louisiana on Sunday, including a rarely-issued warning for tornado-like winds of 115 mph or more in the eyewall of Ida.

The National Hurricane Center said: "Hurricane conditions will spread farther inland within the Hurricane Warning area over southeastern Louisiana tonight. Tropical storm conditions will also spread inland over portions of Louisiana and Mississippi tonight and Monday.

"Tornadoes will be most likely through Monday over southeast Louisiana, southern Mississippi, southwest Alabama, and the western Florida Panhandle. A few tornadoes are also possible farther north across much of Mississippi and Alabama on Monday.

"At 7 p.m. CDT, the center of Hurricane Ida was located inland over Louisiana about 25 miles (40 km) west-southwest of New Orleans and about 55 miles (85 km) southeast of Baton Rouge. Ida is moving toward the northwest near 10 mph (17 km/h).

"A turn toward the north is expected overnight, followed by a slightly faster northeastward motion by Monday night and Tuesday. On the forecast track, the center of Ida will move farther inland over southeastern Louisiana tonight. Ida is then forecast to move well inland over portions of western Mississippi Monday and Monday night, and move across the Tennessee Valley on Tuesday."

What have politicians said?

Gov Edwards said: "It’s very painful to think about another powerful storm like Hurricane Ida making landfall on that anniversary. But I also want you to know that we’re not the same state that we were 16 years ago.”

"Tonight, we have confirmed at least one death and sadly, we know there will be others," he added in a statement late on Sunday. "Thousands of our people are without power and there is untold damage to property across the impacted parishes."

President Joe Biden said: "Well, folks, you’ve got your hands full, but you’ve done an incredible job so far in prepping for this.

"You know, Jill and I are just getting back from Dover Air Force Base, up in my home state, where we met with the families of 13 fallen heroes in Afghanistan who lost their lives in the service of our country. And while we’re praying for the best in Louisiana, let’s keep them in our prayers as well.

"This storm is a life-threatening storm. Governor Edwards, an old friend, has characterized it as one of the strongest hurricanes — the strongest in Louisiana history since 1850. And its devastation is likely to be immense. We shouldn’t kid ourselves.

"And so the most important thing I can say right now is that everyone — everyone should listen to the instructions from local and state officials just how dangerous this is and take it seriously. It’s not just the coast. It’s not just New Orleans. It’s north as well. The rainfall is expected to be exceedingly high.

"And to the people of the Gulf Coast: I want you to know that we’re praying for the best and planning — prepared for the worst.

"As soon as the storm passes, we’re going to put this — we’re going to put the country’s full might behind the rescue and recovery. And I mean that."

Chip Kline, executive assistant to the governor of Louisiana for coastal activities, said on Twitter: “Based upon current track and strength of Ida, this storm will test our hurricane protection systems in a way they haven’t been tested before. It’s times like these that remind us of the importance of continuing to protect south Louisiana.”

What is the path of Hurricane Ida?

The storm is currently in Louisiana but a number of other states have issued emergency protocol following the predicted path of the storm. It is expected to head north and then north west in the coming days, first hitting parts of Alabama and Tennessee, with the city of Nashville currently in its path.

It will then start to move further back towards the coast, going through the states of Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland before hitting smaller states on the coast. These include New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and some parts of Massachusetts. Huge cities such as New York, Baltimore and Boston are currently in the path of the storm.