Intensifying Hurricane Ida expected to slam Louisiana
Hurricane Ida, which the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) has warned could grow to an extremely dangerous Category 4 storm, is expected to slam Louisiana on Sunday, the 16th anniversary of hurricane Katrina's destructive landfalls in Louisiana and Mississippi.
The NHC said that Ida is forecast to grow into a major hurricane as it tracks toward the northern Gulf Coast, where it will brin life-threatening storm surge, dangerous rainfall flooding, potentially catastrophic winds and tornadoes.
A hurricane warning is posted from Intracoastal City, Louisiana, eastward to the mouth of the Pearl River, including Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and the New Orleans metro area.
Tropical-storm-force winds are forecast to arrive in parts of this region early Sunday, with hurricane conditions developing on Sunday and Sunday night.
Lines at gas pumps and car rental agencies grew long as residents and tourists alike prepared to leave on Saturday.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell called for a voluntary evacuation and reiterated at a press briefing on Saturday that the time to safely leave was growing short.
However, the city officials said Ida was strengthening so quickly that there was no time to organise a mandatory evacuation of the city's 390,000 residents.
The city's authorities were preparing to open shelters for anyone displaced by the storm, according to an NPR report.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards told reporters that Ida "will be one of the strongest hurricanes that hit anywhere in Louisiana since at least the 1850s".
Edwards said Ida could span about 150 miles (241 km) east and west from the storm's center.
Category 3 Hurricane Katrina killed some 1,800 people and caused catastrophic flooding in New Orleans in 2005.