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Hurricane Ida looks absolutely massive from space in these astronaut photos

Hurricane Ida (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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." 

Video: Hurricane Ida seen by satellites as Category 4 storm (opens in new tab)
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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 (opens in new tab). "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." 

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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 (opens in new tab). "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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab)

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European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet of France captured this photo of Hurricane Ida as seen from the International Space Station, showing the Category 4 storm as it approached southeast Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2021.  (Image credit: ESA/Thomas Pesquet)

Meanwhile, satellites and emergency officials are keeping a steady eye on Ida (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab). " 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."

Read here to learn more about how to prepare for potential hurricane conditions. (opens in new tab)

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 tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik (opens in new tab). Follow us @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab), Facebook (opens in new tab) and Instagram (opens in new tab)

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Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.