TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Ida has officially reached hurricane strength and is expected to continue intensifying before approaching the northern Gulf Coast of the United States this weekend – potentially on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Hurricane Hunters found Ida at hurricane strength around 1:15 p.m. ET on Friday. The storm has 75 mph maximum sustained winds.
Ida is expected to strengthen quickly over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico this weekend and be a major hurricane when it reaches the northern Gulf Coast. Landfall is expected somewhere in Louisiana on Sunday.
“Ida is expected to be a dangerous major hurricane when it reaches the northern Gulf Coast on Sunday and the risk of hurricane-force winds continues to increase, especially along portions of the Louisiana coast, including metropolitan New Orleans,” National Hurricane Center forecasters said. “Potentially devastating wind damage could occur where the core of Ida moves onshore.”
Several watches and warnings are already in effect along the Gulf Coast. A hurricane watch has been issued for Cameron, Louisiana to the Mississippi-Alabama border, as well as Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and metropolitan New Orleans. A storm surge watch has been issued from Sabine Pass to the Florida-Alabama border, as well as Vermilion Bay, Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and Mobile Bay. The coast from the Mississippi-Alabama border to the Alabama-Florida border is under a tropical storm watch.
Before it reaches the U.S., Ida is first expected to pass near or over the Isle of Youth and western Cuba later Friday. The NHC says life-threatening storm surge and hurricane conditions are expected Friday into Friday night.
A hurricane warning has been issued for the Cuban provinces of Pinar del Rio and Artemisa, as well as the Isle of Youth. A tropical storm warning is in effect for Little Cayman and Cayman Brac as well as the Cuban provinces of Matanzas, Mayabeque and Havana.
Other areas to watch
The National Hurricane Center is monitoring two other areas in the Atlantic with high chances of development in the coming days.
The first is an area of low pressure several hundred miles east of Bermuda that’s producing disorganized thunderstorms and showers. The NHC said environmental conditions are only marginally conducive for development, but a tropical depression could still form over the weekend. The system is expected to move slowly toward the east and pick up speed as it moves northeastward Sunday.
The second area being monitored is a tropical wave between the Cabo Verde Islands and the Lesser Antilles, which is producing a large area of disorganized showers and thunderstorms. The system has a high 70% chance of developing into a tropical depression or storm over the next two days. It is forecast to move to west-northwest for another day before it turns to the north early next week.