Hurricane Ida struck the coast of Louisiana Sunday as a powerful Category 4 storm, 16 years to the day after deadly Hurricane Katrina devastated the southern US city of New Orleans.
“Extremely dangerous Category 4 Hurricane Ida makes landfall near Port Fourchon, Louisiana,” the National Hurricane Center wrote in an advisory.
Ida struck the port, located approximately 100 miles (160 kilometers) directly south of New Orleans, at 1655 GMT, packing maximum sustained winds estimated at 150 miles per hour.
Ahead of Ida’s arrival, showers and strong wind swept New Orleans’ deserted streets throughout the morning, buffeting boarded-up windows at businesses and homes surrounded by sandbags.
State Governor John Bel Edwards said Ida, which had gathered force on its approach through the warm waters of the Gulf, could be the most powerful storm to hit the state since 1850.
“Hurricane #Ida has made landfall in Louisiana. Find the safest place in your house and stay there until the storm passes,” he wrote on Twitter.
Storm surges had earlier flooded the town of Grand Isle, on a barrier island south of New Orleans, CNN reported.
The National Hurricane Center also reported high water levels and flooding affecting the communities of Shell Beach, Louisiana and Yach Club, Mississippi.
U.S. President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in the state, ordering federal assistance to bolster recovery efforts in more than two-dozen storm-stricken parishes. The full extent of storm damage remained to be seen at daybreak.
Ida crashed ashore as Louisiana was already reeling from a resurgence of COVID-19 infections that have strained the state’s healthcare system, with an estimated 2,450 COVID-19 patients hospitalized statewide, many in intensive care units.
A loss of generator power at the Thibodaux Regional Health System hospital in Lafourche Parish, southwest of New Orleans, forced medical workers to manually assist respirator patients with breathing while they were moved to another floor, the state Health Department confirmed to Reuters.
Within 12 hours of landfall, Ida had weakened into a Category 1 hurricane on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale, with top winds clocked at 85 mph (135 kph) as the storm pushed about 100 miles inland past New Orleans, Louisiana’s largest city, early on Monday.