Devastating major hurricane near landfall along Louisiana

Hurricane Ida has rapidly intensified overnight, seeing a steep pressure fall and maximum winds increasing to 150 mph. Very nearly a Category 5 hurricane, Ida should reach the southern coast of Louisiana, about 50 miles due south of New Orleans, around Noon today.

This will be the most devastating hurricane to hit the region since Katrina, 16 years ago today. For some areas, in some ways, it will be worse. The eyewall of the storm will pass very near to the New Orleans metro area. Hurricane-force winds extend across a 70-mile diameter.

Satellite image of Hurricane Ida at 8:20am CT on Sunday. (NOAA)

Over the next 24 hours parts of Southeastern Louisiana will experience sustained winds well above 120 mph with higher gusts, 15 to 20 inches of rainfall, and a storm surge of 12 to 15 feet. For the New Orleans area, the winds and rainfall should be significantly greater than experienced during Katrina, although the surge should be less. This storm will offer a stiff test of the levee system built after Katrina struck the below sea-level region in 2005.

Hurricane track forecast for Ida. (National Hurricane Center)

Ida will be barreling into a low-lying, swampy part of the U.S. Gulf Coast. The storm surge will move easily over this region for miles. While parts of the coast of sparsely populated, there is also major infrastructure in harm’s way. Jeff Masters and Bob Henson have an excellent rundown of damages this region experienced during Katrina, including a complete shutdown to the Port of New Orleans and weeks of delayed barge traffic. Impacts will be similarly severe this time around. Food and fuel prices should rise across the country.

Forecast for swath of highest wind gusts from Hurricane Ida. (Weather Bell)

There is no way to sugarcoat this situation. For those who survive, months of misery await the inhabitants of Southeastern Louisiana. Normally recovery efforts are led in Louisiana out of Baton Rouge, the state capital, which is about 100 miles inland. However, Ida is forecast to pass just east of Baton Rouge, with sustained winds of 100 mph. It seems very probable that Ida will knock out power along the entirety of the region’s most populated core, from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. The state—which has one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the country, and nearly 500 patients in ventilators—will lose much of its ability to function. This is just an exceptionally grim situation.

As a forecaster there is not much else to say. The storm is here, and it is a gut punch. Ida is a nightmare scenario for the state of Louisiana. We must stand ready to help them survive, recover, and rebuild.

33 thoughts on “Devastating major hurricane near landfall along Louisiana”

  1. I can only use the overworked phrase “thoughts and Prayers” now and stand ready to open my wallet to help. Poor Louisiana, we must be ready, willing and able to Help.

  2. Eric, thank you for the reality of what is expected to happen in Louisiana. At least on this end, we can begin to prep on how best to help them. My heart goes out to them, especially over the next 24 hours.

  3. Houston’s arms and wallets stand open, as always. We won’t forget what Louisiana did for us four years ago.

  4. Was reliving our preparations all night, thank you for your continued candor. Thank you for being real and considering the logistical impacts so clearly. So grateful for y’all. Praying over all.

  5. I don’t want to disrespect what The Weather Channel does but they have to sell advertising and every storm seems to be grim. When THIS SITE is grim, I take notice. Houston is ready to help and return the favor to the Cajun Navy that came to us 4 years ago. We are with you, ‘Nawlins!

    • They are probably recording what it looks like “before.” To some this is a sentimental time and unfortunately might be a while before it looks normal again.

  6. This makes me very sad. Houston will do what we can to help our friends to the east as they have helped us in the past. Everyone be safe.

  7. I have family in Baton Rouge and Lafayette. Praying for everyone in the path that weren’t able to get out!

  8. Thank you, Eric, for the honest assessment of the storm and the heartfelt concern for our friends, neighbors and families in Louisiana. We stand ready to help as the recovery begins.

  9. That last part though: “We must stand ready to help them survive, recover and rebuild.” Words and prayers won’t suffice now. An entire city runs the risk of being wiped off the map. We absolutely have to help.

  10. It’s not too late to pray to the Lord Jesus Christ, and ask Him to calm the wind and the sea and calm the storm, as He did in Mark 4:39!! Lord, please calm the storm and protect lives and property 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

  11. I can’t help but feel that one of these days Houston’s going to lose this game of major hurricane russian roulette we play every summer and we’re going to regret not preparing for it any better. Yes Harvey was bad but it was mainly a flooding rain event for the Houston MSA. Our last real wind and surge event was Ike 13 years ago. We have had all this time and no shortage of funding but have done very little to prepare for the big one that will inevitably happen (worst case would be something like Ida coming up the San Luis pass). We could have toughened building codes, buried power lines and if there was enough political will funded the ship channel surge barrier. Instead, we have exploded poorly built housing developments served by unhardened utilities in all directions including towards the coast. New Orleans will survive Ida better than it did Katrina because of all the improvements made to their levee system. After New York, Houston is now the most at risk major metro area in the United States to a major hurricane landfall. I can only hope it happens after I retire and move out of here in 10 years because as much as I enjoy living here most of the time, there’s no way I want to deal with that.

    • Steelers, We were trying to expand and re-route I-45, but that project has been delayed unfortunately. This project (and many others) are an attempt to harden against floods and provide extra evacuation routes in the event of an imminent storm. Unfortunately these projects had roadblocks thrown up and were very delayed and possibly had their funding diverted to other parts of the state.

  12. This is awful and I hope the refurbished levees work as promised.

    One issue I’d love to see you address is how would our current evacuation plan have fared if several days ago all the models had converged on Galveston Bay. How long does it take to set up contraflow on I10 and I45, for example? I live in the last evacuation zone, but considering that rapid intensification looks to be the new normal, I have to give serious consideration to bugging out if the models converge and the Gulf is this hot.

    • It would take 3+ days to evacuate Houston, and that’s only if everyone cooperated with the plans. Given the lack of cooperation we have seen from many regarding COVID, I don’t think a hurricane would be any different.

  13. Whatever Louisiana needs. We’ll never forget what they did for us 4 years ago (I watched out of town in tears and in horror of my hometown going through that). Between Laura and Ida, they’ll need us, and best believe, I’m opening my wallet to them. All love, Louisiana. ♥️

  14. I used to watch hurricane landfalls somewhere else with a morbid detachment…”ooo sucks to be them”; but after getting our house nailed by Ike and Harvey I almost get sick to my stomach watching this

  15. I don’t say this lightly but I believe we are seeing the beginning of the end of life as we know it along the gulf coast. Climate change is going to be especially brutal to those of us who live here. Louisiana is a bit of a canary in the coal mine, and it’s very possible this is the de facto end for that state, or at least all of it within a hundred miles of the gulf. But we here in Houston will be subject to the same fate – it’s just a matter of time. This will be a recovery and assistance effort but not a rebuilding one. Please do all you can to help the people of Louisiana.

    • I was talking about this at lunch after church, and at a minimum I think I need to get out of the Galveston Bay area and at least get west of 59 or thereabouts. This is even prior to retirement when I plan to get out of Texas entirely. Hate the thought of two moves in less than ten years but heck we moved every year or two when I was a kid.

  16. Prayers brothers and sisters. SETX will rally to your aid. Just like you would for us. #cajunnavy

  17. On rebuilding – I would think at some point if you lived along the Louisiana coast you would have to ask yourself if it’s worth it or are you better off moving 100+ miles inland. Three hurricanes in less than two years. Ouch.

  18. It appears to already be ashore at Houma, southwest of New Orleans. Do Baton Rouge and NO are going to get the dirty/strong NE quadrant. However, the Mississippi gulf coast will be largely spared. If the post-Katrina money wasn’t stolen and the repairs were actually made, this will be a tough but limited storm.
    Great reporting, Eric.

  19. Please let’s focus on the storm, and not ahistorical hype and scientific illiteracy about the end of the Gulf coast.

  20. Unfortunately it is not scientific illiteracy. Studies have been done and have been presented on what kinds of ecological disasters await us with a very strong storm like this coming up the Ship Channel. Galveston Bay will be destroyed utterly by the chemical disaster that will result from a great many holding tanks along the Channel. It has been described by the man who studied what exists and what is likely to fail as not unsimilar to Chernobyl in some of the long lasting effects. When was the last time you looked at the Ship Channel, the endless number of holding tanks along it’s banks as well as the factories that turn out tons of petroleum products? These will be sitting ducks for a big storm surge that could result from a strike at just the right place. Time is not on our side either. So beware of what you say. You may one day soon come to regret your own doubts.

    • It’s not just the tanks. Think of all the old residue pits that would be flooded, even though “remediated”. Also the potential for a process incident in a plant that wasn’t shut down properly or on time. Add in economic impact across the country and even the world due to supply chain disruptions as plants are down for months or years.

      Ike Dike needed!

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