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Hurricane Ida: Thousands flee homes as ‘life-threatening’ storm looms over Louisiana

Hurricane Ida intensifying over the gulf of Mexico

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Forecasters warn of the possibility of a Category 4 storm which indicates “catastrophic damage will occur”, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The NHC believes winds may reach 140mph with torrential downpours of up to 20 inches of rain in the central Gulf Coast.

Landfall is anticipated around the Mississippi River, west of Louisiana, today. 

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards warned state residents the incoming storm “will be one of the strongest hurricanes that hit anywhere in Louisiana since at least the 1850s”.

It is around the exact date Hurricane Katrina landed 16 years ago. There were 1,833 deaths directly or indirectly related to Katrina.

The NHC said 1,577 people died in Louisiana, 238 in Mississippi, 14 in Florida, two in Georgia, and two in Alabama.

READ MORE: Hurricane Ida: Massive ‘life-threatening storm’ bears down on US

New Orleans evacuation

Roads leading out of New Orleans are backed up with traffic as people flee (Image: REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

Hurricane Ida

Forecasters warn of the possibility of a Category 4 storm (Image: National Weather Service)

Katrina was a Category 5 hurricane.

Ida struck Cuba on Friday – and thousands of Louisiana residents have fled their homes.

The National Weather Service suggested winds may reach up to 150 mph, making officials fear buildings will suffer damages as well as power outages.

The storm has been picking up speed as it strengthened to category 2 on the Gulf of Mexico – with winds of 80mph as it tore through western Cuba.

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Joe Biden

President Biden said the FEMA has deployed 500 response personnel in Texas and Louisiana (Image: PA)

“Time is not on our side,” LaToya Cantrell, the mayor of New Orleans, told residents to either flee or hunker down.

“It’s just rapidly growing. It’s intensifying.

“If you’re voluntarily evacuating our city, now is the time to leave – you need to do so immediately.”

Officials have urged people to evacuate, issuing mandatory orders in particular areas.

Roads leading out of New Orleans are backed up with traffic as people flee.

Hurricane Ida in Cuba

Hurricane Ida reached winds of 80mph as it tore through western Cuba (Image: REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini)

The National Weather Service latest statement warns parts of Louisiana may be “uninhabitable for weeks or months”.

President Biden said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has deployed 500 response personnel in Texas and Louisiana in preparation.

“We’ve prepositioned food, water, generators and other supplies in the area,” Biden said at a briefing with the FEMA.

“Power restoration and mobile communications support teams are also en route.

“We’ve also closely coordinated with the electric utilities to restore power as soon as possible.”

The storm is expected to reach New Orleans by about 8am (2pm BST) on Sunday with the National Hurricane Center predicting Ida to reach at least Category 4 by landfall.

Collin Arnold, director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, has urged residents to stock up on food and water.

“We say the first 72 (hours) is on you,” Mr Arnold added.

“The first three days of this will be difficult for responders to get to you.”

Tate Reeves, Mississippi Governor, issued a state of emergency on Saturday.

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