The US National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Ida turned into a major hurricane early Sunday morning and is expected to cause a storm surge, wind damage and torrential rain on the northern Gulf coast.
The NHC said Sunday that Ida will bring maximum sustained winds of 185 kph (115 mph).
The hurricane was classified as a Category 4 “extremely severe” storm. It intensified faster than officials expected on Saturday as Gulf Coast residents evacuated and businesses closed.
Southern Louisiana is still reeling from Hurricane Laura a year ago. The state also has the third highest rate of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people in the United States over the past seven days.
Ida winds will be fierce and spread over an area of 300 miles, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said on Saturday, possibly the worst direct blow to the state since the 1850s.
It also devastated Louisiana 16 years ago this week, which killed more than 1,800 people.
Mr Edwards said the state had no plans to evacuate hospitals now strained by the influx of Covid-19 patients.
“The implications of a Category 4 storm while hospitals are full are beyond what we normally imagine,” Mr Edwards said on Saturday afternoon.
More than 3,400 new infections were reported on Friday, and about 2,700 people were hospitalized with the virus.
“We’ve talked to hospitals to make sure their generators are working, that they have more water on hand than usual, and that they have personal protective equipment on hand,” Mr Edwards said.
Officials ordered a large-scale evacuation of low-lying and coastal areas, jamming highways and drying up some gas stations as residents and holidaymakers fled the seashore.
“This is a powerful and dangerous storm — it’s moving faster than we thought, so we have less time to prepare,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter, Louisiana’s chief medical officer. “There is a lot of Covid out there – there is a lot of risk there.”
The facilities were bringing in additional crews and equipment to deal with the expected energy losses. President Joe Biden said he coordinated with electric utilities and that 500 federal emergency response workers were in Texas and Louisiana to respond to the storm.
US energy companies cut offshore oil production by 91 percent, and gasoline refineries cut operations at Louisiana plants in the storm’s path. Regional fuel prices have risen in anticipation of production losses and increased demand due to evictions. – Reuters
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