Hurricane Ida is located approximately 285 miles (460 kilometers) south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River in the United States and packs sustained winds of around 90 mph (150 kmph), according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Ida is travelling in a north-northwest direction and the storm is expected to take a turn towards the north within the next 24 hours as it moves across the Gulf of Mexico. Ida’s motion is predicted to shift to the northeast tomorrow before making landfall close to the Alabama/Florida border in the United States. The NHC said hurricane-force winds extend 35 miles (55 kilometers) from the centre of the storm while tropical storm-force winds extend 200 miles (325 kilometers) from the centre.
A hurricane warning is in effect for more than 200 miles (320 kilometers) of the northern Gulf coast, from Pascagoula in Mississippi eastwards to Indian Pass in Florida. A tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch are also in place from Grand Isle in Louisiana eastwards to Pascagoula. A tropical storm warning has also been issued from east of Indian Pass to Aucilla River in Florida. The NHC said Ida could produce 3 to 6 inches (75 to 150 millimeters) of rain across the central and eastern Gulf coast over the next 24 hours, with up to 8 inches (200 millimeters) possible in some areas. The NHC also warned that Ida could cause a dangerous storm surge that may see water levels rise by as much as 6 feet (1.8 meters) above ground level close to Ida’s landfall point.
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Ida is currently a category 1 hurricane, having weakened from a category 2 storm overnight as it moved through the Gulf of Mexico, where 25 percent of US oil and 15 percent of its natural gas is produced. Forecasters said Ida’s current forecast path would likely see the storm track to the east of the biggest concentration of platforms in the Gulf, but some operations have shut down production and evacuated personnel as a precautionary measure. Reports said the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the only terminal in the United States capable of handling the largest tankers, has stopped unloading ships due to stormy seas.
Although significant uncertainty remains in both the forecast track and intensity, Ida is currently expected to weaken over the next 24 hours as it travels over cooler waters in the Gulf before making landfall in the Alabama/Florida border region tomorrow. The latest NHC forecast says Ida is likely to retain its category 1 hurricane status when it hits the United States, and the point of landfall is expected to be close to Pensacola in Florida (population 55,000), and to the southeast of Mobile in Alabama (population 200,000). However, forecasts are subject to change and the NHC said Ida could come ashore anywhere from eastern Mississippi to northwestern Florida. Forecasters said New Orleans is not expected to be directly threatened by Ida.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has declared a state of emergency as a precaution but officials said there were no immediate plans for mandatory evacuations. Officials in the state are encouraging residents to prepare for wind gusts of up to 60 mph (100 kmph) by removing any tree limbs that could damage their homes and securing loose items. In Florida, residents of Pensacola Beach and nearby Perdido Key have been encouraged to leave their homes, and schools have been closed in the area.
Earlier, Ida made landfall in Nicaragua on 5 November, triggering floods that forced more than 5,000 people into shelters. Ida also swept past the Mexican resort of Cancun on 8 November as it moved through the Yucatan Channel between Mexico and Cuba, but little damage was reported in the city. Separately, severe flooding killed around 125 people in El Salvador but the NHC said a low pressure system out of the Pacific, and not Hurricane Ida, triggered the disaster.
Sources: National Hurricane Center, WSI, Associated Press, Reuters News, Agence France Presse, BBC News, CNN News
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