A tornado watch has been issued for parts of Louisiana, including New Orleans, Hammond and Bogalusa, as well as parts of Florida, Mississippi and Alabama, according to the National Weather Service in New Orleans. The watch runs through 7 p.m.
The Weather Channel said that Grand Isle was already seeing gusts of up to 100 miles per hour. A meteorologist called the intensifying hurricane “very concerning.”
Sustained winds are up to 150 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center. A Category 5 hurricane has sustained winds of 157 miles per hour.
The National Hurricane Center said in its 6 a.m. update that Hurricane Ida’s maximum sustained winds were up to 150 miles per hour with stronger gusts.
The storm is about 75 miles from Grand Isle and around 60 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River.
5 a.m. Sunday update: Hurricane Ida strengthens overnight
Hurricane Ida showed signs that it had rapidly strengthened in the Gulf of Mexico overnight and the storm could continue to grow stronger before it makes landfall Sunday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
The 4 a.m. Sunday update from the NWS indicated the storm was about 145 miles southeast of Houma and moving northwest at 16 mph.
A slight shift in Hurricane Ida’s track to the east on Saturday had forecasters concerned about storm surge and rainfall in areas that can’t handle heavy rain, particularly Barataria and Terrebonne bays.
Life-threatening wind could begin along the Louisiana coast as early as Saturday night “and then spread inland to the New Orleans, Houma and Baton Rouge metro areas on Sunday,” the NWS forecast said.
If Hurricane Ida’s path brought intense rain over New Orleans, forecasters feared it could lead to extremely dangerous flash flooding in the metro area
Hurricane Ida triggers New Orleans risk-reduction system
Gov. John Bel Edwards said Saturday that Hurricane Ida was expected to force officials to activate the still-new $15 billion hurricane risk reduction system in New Orleans for only the second time. The system, built after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was expected to be activated Sunday morning.
Edwards also detailed other rescue and recovery resources poised to respond to Ida:
- The Louisiana National Guard has staged rescue and recovery assets throughout the impact zone from Acadiana through southern Louisiana with 164 high water vehicles, 62 boats and 34 helicopters.
- More than 4,000 National Guard men and women have boots on the ground with 1,000 more on the way.
- 10,000 electricity linemen and women are also staged in state with another 10,000 out-of-state on hand when needed.
Almost all Gulf oil production shut down ahead of Ida
More than 90% of the Gulf of Mexico’s oil production was shut down Saturday as Hurricane Ida churned through the western Gulf of Mexico toward an expected landfall Sunday evening near Morgan City.
About 85% of the Gulf’s natural gas production had also been halted by midday, according to the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
Workers had been evacuated from half of the 560 production platforms in the Gulf, according to the bureau.
Will Ida impact gas prices?
Hurricane Ida’s impact on gas prices largely depends on how severely the storm damages refineries in the area, analysts say.
Some numbers to consider:
- About half of U.S. refinery capacity is also located along the Gulf Coast, stretching roughly from New Orleans to Houston.
- About 4.4 million barrels a day of refinery capacity was in the storm’s path, mostly in Louisiana, according to Platts Analytics.
- The facilities produce about 1.5 million barrels of gasoline a day, a fraction of the 8 million barrels the U.S. consumed per day last year.
“Hurricane Ida is expected to come ashore along the same path as other storms, which did extensive damage to USGC refining and petrochemical facilities,” Platts said Saturday. “Many plants have been hardened against hurricanes, but disruptions in operations are still very likely due to flooding, power outages and personnel dislocations.”