Category 4 Hurricane Ida nears Gulf Coast; Biden coordinating response

Satellite animation of major Hurricane Ida approaching Louisiana.Satellite animation of major Hurricane Ida approaching Louisiana.

President Joe Biden said he has spoken to governors of states along the Gulf Coast and has coordinated with electric utilities in preparation for Hurricane Ida, which was a Category 4 hurricane as of 8 a.m. ET Sunday. The powerful storm is forecast to make landfall in Louisiana late Sunday morning or early afternoon, on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastating strike in the same area.

Related: Hurricane Ida nears Gulf Coast; evacuations underway

“We’ve pre-positioned food, water, generators and other supplies in the area. Power restoration and mobile communications support teams are also en route,” Biden said at a briefing with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “We’ve also closely coordinated with the electric utilities to restore power as soon as possible.”

Ida intensified Saturday as it moved northward across the Gulf of Mexico. This prompted tens of thousands of people to jam Louisiana highways as they evacuated the region, according to a Reuters report. Utilities were bringing in extra crews and equipment to deal with expected power losses.

Biden said FEMA deployed 500 emergency response personnel in Texas and Louisiana ahead of the storm, in addition to 2,000 FEMA workers already supporting the COVID response in the region.

Ida became a tropical storm late Thursday, quickly strengthening into a hurricane by early Friday afternoon. The National Hurricane Center has been saying since Friday that Ida would likely turn into a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher).

As of 8 a.m. Sunday, Ida was centered 50 miles southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River, which is just south of New Orleans. It had sustained winds of 150 mph, along with higher gusts. The NHC said Ida will remain that powerful, or may even gain a bit of strength, just prior to landfall in Louisiana.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued states of emergency Saturday. Louisiana has been under a state of emergency since Friday.

(Map: FreightWaves SONAR Critical Events. Major Hurricane Ida on Aug. 29, 2021, 8 a.m. ET. To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.)

The NHC said Ida will produce life-threatening storm surges of 8 to 16 feet in some locations, with heavy rain adding to the flood risk. A storm surge warning remains in place from east of the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana to the Alabama-Florida border, as well as the Vermilion Bay, Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and Mobile Bay areas.

A hurricane warning remains posted from Intracoastal City, Louisiana, to the mouth of the Pearl River, in addition to the Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and metropolitan New Orleans areas.

A tropical storm warning is in effect from Cameron, Louisiana, to west of Intracoastal City and from the mouth of the Pearl River to the Alabama-Florida border.

Related: Freight rail operations brace for Hurricane Ida

After landfall, Ida is forecast to turn to the northeast early Monday and track across parts of the Tennessee and Ohio valleys through Wednesday, producing inland rain totals of 4 to 8 inches and potential flooding.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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