Hurricane Ida makes landfall in Louisiana as a robust Class four storm

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Traffic moves bumper to bumper along I-10 West as residents evacuate toward Texas ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Ida in Vinton, Louisiana.

Adrees Latif | REUTERS

Hurricane Ida hit land in Louisiana on Sunday as a Category 4 storm at wind speeds of 250 mph, one of the strongest storms to hit the region since Hurricane Katrina, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

Ida has since fallen on a Category 1 storm with maximum sustained winds of 95 mph. For the past hour, the storm has been about 45 miles northwest of New Orleans and about 48 miles east-southeast of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center said.

Late Sunday, President Joe Biden approved a major disaster statement for Louisiana, freeing up federal funds for recovery efforts.

While the storm is expected to subside in the next few days or so, the NHC said Ida is expected to remain a hurricane for several hours. The NHC warned that a life-threatening storm surge overnight from Burns Point, Louisiana, to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, could continue and potentially topple local levees.

The NHC said winds are likely to damage trees and cause power outages as Ida continues inland across southeast Louisiana. Heavy rains are expected in southeast Louisiana, the Mississippi coast and southwest Alabama through Monday and could trigger “significant to life-threatening floods and urban floods.”

According to PowerOutage.us, more than 1 million utility customers in Louisiana were without power as of early Monday. On Sunday evening, New Orleans said the entire city had lost power after “catastrophic transmission damage”.

Ida landed on the anniversary of Katrina, the dangerous Category 3 storm that devastated Louisiana and Mississippi 16 years ago, killing more than 1,800 people and causing $ 125 billion in damage.

Ida’s strength and path will be a major test of flood control from New Orleans to Katrina, including levees, flood walls, and gates built to protect against storms. Katrina had broken levees and caused catastrophic flooding in New Orleans.

Ida has also raised concerns about the city’s hospitals, which are already overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients and have little space for evacuated patients. In Galliano, Louisiana, as the storm raged ashore, the battle for patient care was exacerbated after part of the roof of the Lady of the Sea General Hospital was demolished.

Ida intensified so quickly that officers did not have time to order mandatory evacuations. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell ordered a mandatory evacuation for a small portion of the city outside the levee system, but said there was no time to enact one for the entire city.

Emergency shelters in Louisiana are operating at reduced capacity due to the pandemic, although state officials are working to secure hotel rooms for evacuees.

All Sunday flights were also canceled due to the approaching storm, New Orleans Airport announced on Saturday.

Water seeps into a beach house when Hurricane Ida hits land in Grand Isle, Louisiana, United States on August 29, 2021 in this still image from a social media video. Christie Angelette on REUTERS THIS PICTURE WAS SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT

Christie Angelette | Christie Angelette on REUTERS

President Joe Biden has declared a state of emergency in Louisiana and Mississippi, a move that empowers the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate all disaster relief efforts.

“The storm is a life-threatening storm,” said the president on Sunday at a briefing at FEMA headquarters. “The devastation is likely to be immense. Everyone should listen to instructions from local and state officials.”

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards called for a presidential statement on Sunday afternoon for a major disaster for Biden after the storm hit the state’s coastline.

“Hurricane Ida is one of the strongest storms to have ever hit Louisiana,” Edwards said in a statement. “Our goal is to help our local authorities and the citizens of the state as quickly as possible.

A resident picks up sandbags home from a city-operated sandbag distribution point on Dryades YMCA along Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., Friday, Aug. 27, 2021 in New Orleans as residents prepare for Hurricane Ida.

Max Becherer | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans attorney via AP

Harmful winds will spread to southwest Mississippi on Sunday night and early Monday, likely causing widespread tree damage and power outages, as well as heavy rains and expected across the central Gulf Coast, the Hurricane Center said.

As the storm moves inland, the Hurricane Center is forecasting significant flooding in parts of the lower Mississippi, Tennessee Valley, upper Ohio Valley, central Appalachian Mountains and the mid-Atlantic by Wednesday, according to the Hurricane Center.

Ida is the first major storm to hit the Gulf Coast during the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active on record, with 30 named storms including 13 hurricanes.

Scientists warn of increasingly dangerous hurricane seasons as climate change fuels more frequent and catastrophic storms. NOAA expects between 15 and 21 named storms, including seven to ten hurricanes, in the 2021 season.

This story evolves. Please check again for updates.

– CNBC’s Christine Wang contributed to this report.