NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Hurricane Ida blasted ashore Sunday as one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the U.S., rushing from the Louisiana coast toward New Orleans and one of the nation’s most important industrial corridors.
The Category 4 storm with winds of 150 mph (230 kph) hit on the same date Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi 16 years earlier, coming ashore about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of where Category 3 Katrina first struck land.
NOAA’s National Hurricane Center Director, Ken Graham, said Ida’s winds were “incredibly strong still,” even though the story’s eye was now over land.
“This storm looks as healthy as it has at any time in the last day or so,” Graham said.
The rising ocean swamped the barrier island of Grand Isle as landfall came just to the west at Port Fourchon. Ida made a second landfall about two hours later near Galliano. The hurricane was churning through the far southern Louisiana wetlands, with the more than 2 million people living in and around New Orleans and Baton Rouge up next.
Wind tore at awnings and water spilled out of Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans before noon Sunday. Officials said Ida’s swift intensification from a few thunderstorms to a massive hurricane in just three days left no time to organize a mandatory evacuation of the city’s 390,000 residents.
Forecasters warned winds stronger than 115 mph (185 kph) were expected in Houma, a city of 33,000 that supports oil platforms in the Gulf.
Comparisons to the Aug. 29, 2005, landfall of Katrina weighed heavily on residents bracing for Ida. Katrina was blamed for 1,800 deaths as it caused levee breaches and catastrophic flooding in New Orleans and demolished oceanfront homes in Mississippi. Ida’s hurricane-force winds stretched 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the storm’s eye, or about half the size of Katrina.
About 350,000 customers were already out of power as of Sunday afternoon, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks outages nationwide.