Tropical storm Ida is gaining strength as it barrels through the Caribbean Sea and is expected to be a "dangerous major hurricane" when it slams into the northern Gulf Coast on Sunday (Aug. 29), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned (opens in new tab) Friday morning (Aug. 27).
The NHC defines a major hurricane as a Category 3 or higher, meaning Ida could reach maximum sustained winds of 111 mph (178.6 km/h) or greater by the time it reaches the Louisiana coast; Ida would be the fourth hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic season (opens in new tab). As of now, the storm is projected to hit Louisiana as a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds around 115 mph (185 km/h), Buzzfeed News reported (opens in new tab).
Assuming Ida follows its projected path, the storm could hit on the 16th anniversary of when Hurricane Katrina (opens in new tab) made landfall near New Orleans in 2005.
A hurricane watch is now in effect between Cameron, Louisiana and the Mississippi-Alabama border, as well as the Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and metropolitan New Orleans areas, the NHC announced (opens in new tab). And as Ida draws near, life-threatening storm surges could occur from the Sabine Pass, at the border of Texas and Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida border. Vermilion Bay, Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and Mobile Bay are also under storm surge watches.
If peak storm surges coincide with high tide, the surges could reach as high as 11 feet (3.3 meters) above ground level in the region between Morgan City, Louisiana and Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
Tropical-storm-force winds currently extend up to 90 miles (145 kilometers) from the center of the approaching cyclone. Once Ida hits the U.S., tropical storm conditions could potentially occur anywhere between the Mississippi-Alabama border and the Alabama-Florida border, the NHC stated.
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The storm could bring an estimated 8 to 16 inches (20 to 41 centimeters) of rainfall to regions between southeast Louisiana to coastal Mississippi and Alabama, with isolated areas getting up to 20 inches (51 cm) of rain. Heavy rains are expected to last through Monday morning (Aug. 30). As the storm moves inland, it could bring about 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) of rain to southern and central Mississippi.
"This is likely to result in considerable flash, urban, small stream and riverine flooding," according to the NHC.
"Unfortunately, all of Louisiana’s coastline is currently in the forecast cone for Tropical Storm Ida, which is strengthening and could come ashore in Louisiana as a major hurricane as Gulf conditions are conducive for rapid intensification," Edwards said in a statement. "Now is the time for people to finalize their emergency game plan, which should take into account the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic."
"By Saturday evening, everyone should be in the location where they intend to ride out the storm," he said.
Originally published on Live Science.