Planks of wood and bags of sand, the inhabitants of New Orleans took shelter with their families in the face of a new extreme climatic episode. Sixteen years to the day after the passage of Katrina, the largest city in Louisiana is preparing for the arrival of Ida, which raises fears of catastrophic damage in the hours to come. As we approach the American coast this Sunday morning, it is “Strengthens quickly” and has just turned into a Category 4 hurricane (on a scale of 5), according to the American National Hurricane Center. The gusts could reach 215 km / h.
“It will be one of the most violent storms to hit Louisiana since the 1850s”, warned the state governor, John Bel Edwards. Southern Louisiana could endure further destruction and flooding, with up to 50cm of rain expected in places. “Potentially fatal effects are expected”, noted the US weather service on Twitter.
Hurricane #Ida will continue to rapidly strengthen and approach the Gulf Coast of Louisiana on Sunday as a major hurricane. Life-threatening impacts are forecasted for portions of the Gulf Coast into the Lower MS River Valley Sunday into Monday. https://t.co/bvYB4eEGuA pic.twitter.com/M9SEX4vx3q
– National Weather Service (@NWS) August 29, 2021
“Time is against us”, said LaToya Cantrell, the mayor of New Orleans, which could be severely affected by the hurricane. The city of nearly 400,000 inhabitants could not be evacuated in time.
President Joe Biden, who called on residents to prepare during a televised address on Saturday afternoon, announced the dispatch of hundreds of emergency response specialists and the establishment of water supplies, food and electric generators in anticipation of the cyclone.
Ida spent Friday evening on the southwest coast of Cuba, doing only minor damage there as thousands of people had been evacuated and the electricity was cut off preventively. It then continued on its way, strengthening Saturday in the middle of the day in a category 2 out of 5 hurricane, with wind gusts already reaching 160 km / h.
From space, the French astronaut Thomas Pesquet has also flown over the United States
this Sunday in the international space station and was able to capture impressive images of the hurricane, which he posted on social networks.
The eye of #HurricaneIda. It’s worrying to see these weather phenomena becoming stronger & more frequent from our vantage point. I hope anyone in the path of this storm will be prepared & stay safe. pic.twitter.com/kUWzWXtmqs
— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) August 29, 2021
Remembering Katrina, which made landfall on August 29, 2005, is still painful in Louisiana, where more than 1,800 people had lost their lives and where the bad weather had caused tens of billions of dollars of damage.
“I know it’s very painful to think that a new big storm like Hurricane Ida could make landfall on this anniversary date, lamented Governor John Bel Edwards. But we are not the same state as sixteen years ago, we have a hurricane risk reduction system. ” He pointed out that this system was going to be “Put to the test”.
Region on health alert
“Long-lasting power cuts are almost certain”, also warned Collin Arnold, an official in New Orleans. Some 10,000 power grid operators are already ready to respond to power cuts and they will soon double, said John Bel Edwards. The Louisiana National Guard was also fully mobilized.
The hurricane threatens a region already on health alert: the Delta variant hit Louisiana hard, little vaccinated, bringing its hospital system to its knees with nearly 2,700 hospitalized patients and as many daily deaths as at the peak of the pandemic.
“If you have to go to a shelter, make sure you wear a mask and try to keep your distance”, recalled Joe Biden, who declared a state of emergency in Louisiana.
In addition, in Mexico, Hurricane Nora made landfall overnight from Saturday to Sunday, in the state of Jalisco, on the Pacific coast, accompanied by heavy rains. It is, however, less dangerous. The eye of the hurricane, category 1 on the Saffir-Simpson scale which has 5. No injuries were reported.
As the surface of the oceans warms, hurricanes become more powerful, scientists say. In particular, they pose an increasingly significant risk to coastal communities that are victims of wave-submersion phenomena amplified by rising sea levels. Storm Henri swept across the northeastern United States last week, while Hurricane Esla hit the Caribbean and Florida in July, before tropical storms Fred and Grace a few days later.
Update : at 4:15 p.m., with the addition of photos by Thomas Pesquet.