Hurricane Ida strengthens and approaches dangerously off the Louisiana coast

Hurricane Ida, which crosses the Gulf of Mexico, is approaching the coast of the US state of Louisiana, Sunday, August 29, threatening this territory and pushing the authorities to sound the alert for the inhabitants.

According to the forecasts of the National Hurricane Center (NHC), Ida became, on the night of Saturday to Sunday, a category 4 hurricane (on a scale of up to 5) and continues to strengthen, with winds up to 209 km / h. Ida is now about 170 km south of the mouth of the Mississippi, and approaches Louisiana, moving northwesterly. “Ida is expected to be a major and very dangerous hurricane by the time it makes landfall along the Louisiana coast this afternoon”, estimates the NHC.

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Ida is now threatening a state whose hospitals are already under severe pressure by the Covid-19 epidemic. Facilities in New Orleans, Lousiane’s main coastal city, are already largely occupied, as are many hospitals in the region, a situation complicating evacuations.

Faced with this threat, tens of thousands of residents of Louisiana, but also Mississippi and Alabama, fled the Gulf of Mexico coast. US President Joe Biden has in advance promised federal aid to the states that will be affected.

“Time is against us”

“We try to barricade the store before the hurricane, so that the water does not enter and that people do not try to rob us”, Austin Suriano explained on Saturday. The young man and his 16-year-old brother were helping their father put up large plywood panels on the family watch repair shop near one of New Orleans’ major thoroughfares. “Time is against us”, said LaToya Cantrell, the mayor of New Orleans, a city that could be seriously affected by the hurricane.

On Saturday, the governor of Lousiane, John Bel Edwards, estimated that the “Strong and resilient inhabitants” de Lousiane would weather this storm, while warning the region that evacuation shelters would operate with reduced capacities due to the Covid-19 epidemic. He added that the authorities were looking for hotel rooms to shelter the evacuated residents, and limit gatherings in common shelters.

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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.

Katrina’s trauma

Louisiana is frequently affected by hurricanes and has not yet fully healed the wounds inflicted by the trauma of 2005, when Katrina ravaged Louisiana, killing more than 1,800. During this traumatic episode, New Orleans was 80% flooded after the dikes protecting the city had given way.

It is the warming of the ocean surface that makes hurricanes 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.

Last week, Tropical Storm Henri, accompanied by considerable precipitation, hit the northeastern United States, a rare occurrence for this region, where thousands of people were left without power.

Le Monde with AFP, AP and Reuters