BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD) – Gov. John Bel Edwards on Saturday warned the window is closing quickly for people to get out of harm’s way as Hurricane Ida intensifies and heads for the Gulf Coast of Louisiana.
“Your window of time is closing. It is rapidly closing. By the time you go to bed tonight, you need to be where you intend to ride this storm out and you need to be as prepared as you can be,” Edwards said in a briefing early Saturday afternoon, less than an hour after the storm reached Category 2 strength.
Hurricane Ida is expected to bring winds as high as 130 mph (209 kph) when it slams ashore Sunday as a Category 4 hurricane. While it is not expected to make landfall until later in the day, the tropical-storm-force winds are expected to begin making their way onshore by 8 a.m. Edwards noted that means that the northern half of the storm will already be on land by that time.
Sustained winds are expected to top out at around 140 mph, but Edwards said winds as high as 110 mph could reach as high as the Louisiana/Mississippi border and come from as far west as Lafayette. A storm surge of 10-15 feet is expected from Morgan City to the mouth of the Mississippi River. Rainfall totals are expected from 8 inches to 16 inches, with some areas possibly taking as much as 20 inches.
Edwards said people from coastal Louisiana should not evacuate to Baton Rouge or Lafayette, because those areas are expected to be significantly affected.
“The state and local government, our federal partners, we’re all doing everything that we can to prepare for and position to quickly respond to the needs of the people of Louisiana, but we need the people of Louisiana to be prepared as well.”
“The storm intensity, the amount of rain we expect to get, the wind, is just too strong in these areas, so please evacuate further west, further north than the Lafayette and Baton Rouge area if at all possible.”
Ida is predicted to weaken after landfall, but the hurricane is likely to bring heavy rainfall that could cause life-threatening flash and urban flooding.
The projected landfall of Hurricane Ida comes on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall as a Category 3 storm in 2016.
“I’m also aware that’s it’s very painful to think about another powerful storm like Hurricane Ida making landfall on that anniversary,” Edwards said. “But, every storm is different. They all bring their own challenges, but I also want you to know that we’re not the same state that we were 16 years ago. We have a storm reduction system in place because of the generosity of the people of the United States of America before. And outside of the hurricane risk reduction system, we also have tremendous investments and protection across south Louisiana, with levees and gates and pumps. And having said all that, this system is gonna be tested. There’s no doubt. The people of Louisiana are gonna be tested. But we are resilient and tough people, and we’re gonna get through this.”
While direct comparisons between hurricanes are hard, Edwards says he expects Hurricane Ida to be similar in strength to 2020’s Hurricane Laura at landfall, which is the state’s strongest-measured hurricane to date since 1856.
Edwards also noted during the briefing Saturday that there are 2,450 individuals hospitalized across the state of Louisiana with COVID-19.
“I’m very thankful that that’s a drop. That’s a drop of about 20% in the last ten days and that’s very helpful going into this hurricane, especially since we know that the evacuation of our hospitals is not an option. But that still puts us in a very precarious position, because that 2,450 people is still higher than the amount we had hospitalized at any time than the three surges prior to the current fourth surge.”
Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Thursday ahead of the storm. On Friday, President Joe Biden declared that an emergency exists in Louisiana and ordered Federal assistance to supplement state and local response efforts due to conditions resulting from Hurricane Ida beginning August 26 and continuing.