- Tropical Storm Ida had maximum sustained winds of about 40 mph Thursday afternoon as it formed near Jamaica.
- The National Hurricane Center said the system will undergo “rapid intensification” and be “near major hurricane strength when it approaches the northern Gulf coast on Sunday.”
- The depression is forecast to deliver anywhere from 6 to 12 inches of rain over parts of Jamaica, Cuba and the Cayman islands.
Tropical Storm Ida formed in the Caribbean Sea on Thursday, and forecasters are warning it could rapidly strengthen into one of the strongest storms of the Atlantic hurricane season.
The system is taking aim at the U.S. Gulf Coast, but conditions appear right for the storm to cause extreme weather for inland regions as well, according to a Thursday afternoon AccuWeather briefing. Senior meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said parts of Tennessee still reeling from deadly floods are at risk for more heavy rain.
The storm is shaping up to be “probably be the strongest storm of the season thus far,” Kottlowski said. It could make landfall before the end of the weekend as a hurricane, giving people in its path little time to prepare or evacuate, Kottlowski said.
While Ida had maximum sustained winds of only about 40 mph Thursday evening as it formed near Jamaica, its track was set to travel over warm water in the Gulf of Mexico.
The National Hurricane Center said on Thursday afternoon the system will undergo “rapid intensification.” When the system reaches the northern Gulf coast on Sunday, the Hurricane Center predicts it will be “at or near major hurricane intensity.”
The Hurricane Center defines “major hurricanes” as Category 3 or higher. Category 3 storms have winds of 111-129 mph and “devastating damage will occur” with storms of that strength.
Hurricane Grace made landfall on Mexico’s Gulf Coast as a Category 3 storm this month, but Kottlowski said this latest system has the potential to do more damage because of its potential inland effects in the U.S.
The Hurricane Center at 5 p.m. Thursday warned “there is an increasing risk of life-threatening storm surge, damaging hurricane-force winds, and heavy rainfall Sunday and Monday, especially along the coast of Louisiana.”
The storm dropping heavy rain on western Tennessee is a “nightmare scenario,” Kottlowski said.
Last weekend, torrential rains sparked fast-rising floodwaters in the Waverly, Tennessee area, knocking homes off their foundations and killing at least 20 people, local and state officials reported.
Both the Cuban and Cayman governments have issued tropical storm warnings following the formation of Tropical Depression Nine, according to information on the website of the U.S. National Weather Service.
The depression is forecast to deliver anywhere from 6 to 12 inches of rain over parts of Jamaica, Cuba and the Cayman islands. Forecasters warned of possible flash floods and mudslides and a storm surge of as much as 2 to 4 feet above normal, along with “large and destructive waves.”
The next named storms of the 2021 hurricane season will be Ida, Julian and Kate.
Contributing: Brad Schmitt, The Tennessean, The Associated Press