A ‘strong and dangerous’ storm hits Louisiana

Hurricane Ida was about to make landfall in the United States on Sunday as an extremely dangerous Category 4 storm that could submerge much of the Louisiana coast underwater as the state grapples with the spread of the Covid-19 virus already taxing hospitals.

Ida gathered more power overnight, faster than meteorologists had predicted just a day earlier. It’s the toughest test yet of the hundreds of miles of new levees built around New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall 16 years ago to the present day, inundating historically black neighborhoods and killing more than 1,800 people.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said the storm, which is due to make landfall on Sunday afternoon, may be the worst direct hit by a tornado in the state since the 1850s.

Hurricane Ida over the Gulf of Mexico on August 29, 2021. Photo: Handout/NOAA/GOES/AFP via Getty

The state is also dealing with the third-highest rate in the country of new Covid-19 infections, with about 3,400 new cases reported on Friday alone. Mr Edwards said hospitals are treating about 2,450 patients with Covid-19, though those in many of the state’s parishes are already close to accommodating them.

By early Sunday, Ida was a Category 4 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). At about 4 pm Irish time, it was located approximately 95 kilometers west-southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River, and about 135 kilometers south of New Orleans, and had strong winds of up to 240 kilometers per hour.

It rained in New Orleans Sunday morning, as retired 68-year-old Robert Ruffin and his family were evacuated to a downtown hotel from their east city home.

“I thought it was safer,” he said. “It’s a double problem this time because of Covid.”

Fall Ida was only a few hours away, according to the NHC, which warned of life-threatening storm surges, potentially catastrophic wind damage and flood rains.

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