Tropical Storm Ida nears Louisiana, prompting governor's emergency declaration

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Louisiana Gov. Jon Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Thursday in anticipation of Tropical Storm Ida, which is forecast to gain strength as it approaches the northern Gulf Coast potentially on Sunday, the governor’s office confirmed in a release.  

“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,” the governor 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.”

Ida could bring a dangerous storm surge, damaging hurricane-force wind and heavy rainfall on Sunday and Monday along Louisiana’s coast. Hurricane-force winds of 110 mph have been forecast. 

The state of emergency declaration authorizes the use of state resources for storm response efforts. 

“This type of threat contains additional problems because the window to prepare is so short,” Edwards continued, adding that residents should be where they “intend to ride out the storm” by Saturday night. 

The Emergency Operations Center at the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) is monitoring the storm and coordinating with FEMA and local parish emergency preparedness offices, the release said. 

“Right now we know conditions are primed for this system to strengthen,” GOHSEP Director Jim Waskom said in a statement. “We also know the reality of this impact all too well.  That means we all must remain aware of the potential of this severe weather threat, finalize your emergency plans and be ready to adjust those plans due any changes in the forecast or due to potential weather alerts being issued.”

Edwards warned major power outages could occur. 

“The people of Louisiana have been tested time and time again, and while it is my hope and prayer that this storm will not bring destruction to our state, we should be prepared to take the brunt of the severe weather,” he said. 

Ida formed in the Caribbean on Thursday and the U.S. National Hurricane Center said it was expected to cross the western stretch of Cuba as a tropical storm starting Friday afternoon and then strengthen as it heads toward the Gulf Coast. 

A hurricane watch was in effect for Cameron, Louisiana, to the Mississippi-Alabama border — including Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and metropolitan New Orleans.

Late Thursday night, Ida had sustained maximum winds of 40 mph and was traveling northwest at about 12 mph. It was centered about 65 miles southeast of Grand Cayman and 365 miles southeast of the western tip of Cuba.

Tropical-storm-force winds extended as far as 70 miles from the center.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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