Hurricane Ida has strengthened into a powerful Category 4 storm as it approaches the coast of Louisiana today (Aug. 29), with astronauts keeping close watch on the tempest from space.
NASA astronaut Megan McArthur captured a series of photos of Hurricane Ida on Saturday while it was still a Category 3 storm. Her photos show a massive storm churning across the Gulf of Mexico as it bore down on the southeastern coast of Louisiana, where it is expected to make landfall later today.
"Hurricane Ida from Space Station just before noon CDT today," McArthur wrote on Twitter while sharing the photos of her view from orbit. "If you are/have been in its path, I'm thinking of you and hoping you stay safe."
French astronaut Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency was similarly awestruck by the power of the storm as he snapped photos from the station, which is currently home to seven astronauts (three Americans, two Russians and one astronaut each from France and Japan).
"The eye of Hurricane Ida," Pesquet wrote as he shared his photos on Twitter. "It's worrying to see these weather phenomena becoming stronger & more frequent from our vantage point. I hope anyone in the path of this storm will be prepared & stay safe."
This is a sight no one wants to see on satellite. Ida, a Category 4 major hurricane with maximum sustained winds of now 145mph continues to approach southeastern Louisiana. This remains a serious, life-threatening situation. Stay tuned for frequent updates. #lawx #mswx pic.twitter.com/SMs227S3CHAugust 29, 2021
The astronauts' well wishes to those in the path of Ida come as the hurricane was expected to hit Louisiana 16 years to the day after the landfall of Hurricane Katrina, another Category 4 storm that devastated the region with its powerful winds and rains.
New Orleans in Louisiana is home to NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility, the manufacturing site for the agency's new Space Launch System rocket and where the agency's space shuttle fuel tanks were built during the shuttle era. The facility is currently closed, with only essential personnel on site, the agency said this morning.
"NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans is at Hurricane Condition I in preparation for Hurricane Ida," Michoud officials wrote on Twitter. "The center remains closed to non-essential personnel. Stay safe everyone!"
Hurricane Ida poses a similar threat, according to the National Hurricane Center, which warned of a "life-threatening storm surge and hurricane-force winds reaching the coast of southeastern Louisiana" in an update at 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT).
As of 5 a.m. EDT, Hurricane Ida was located about 50 miles (85 kilometers) south of the mouth of the Mississippi River and 100 miles (160 km) southeast of Houma, Louisiana. It had maximum sustained winds of 150 mph (240 kph).
Ida is the first hurricane to make landfall on U.S. soil of 2021 and the first to hit the Gulf Coast this year. The city of New Orleans has issued a mandatory evacuation order for residents living outside its levee system, which was rebuilt after the destruction from Hurricane Katrina, the New York Times reported.
In photos: Hurricane Katrina From Space
700 AM CDT Key Messages for #Ida: Extremely life-threatening storm surge and catastrophic wind damage are imminent where the core of #Ida moves onshore in the next few hours https://t.co/tW4KeFW0gB pic.twitter.com/lILc6eoRxBAugust 29, 2021
Meanwhile, satellites and emergency officials are keeping a steady eye on Ida as it makes landfall. President Joe Biden said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and are issuing regular updates to the White House on Ida's status.
"Today I was briefed on our preparations for Hurricane Ida by FEMA," Biden wrote Saturday in a Twitter statement. " We have deployed emergency response personnel and pre-positioned food, water, generators, and supplies to make sure we're ready to respond. If you are in Ida’s path, please pay attention and be prepared."
Editor's note: This story was updated at 11 a.m. EDT to include NASA's statement on the status of the agency's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans ahead of Hurricane Ida's landfall.
Email Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Instagram.