Hurricane Ida makes landfall as 'extremely dangerous' Category 4 storm in Louisiana

Hurricane Ida makes landfall as 'extremely dangerous' Category 4 storm in Louisiana
Thousands of people had already fled their homes as Hurricane Ida hit the coast of Louisiana with wind speeds of 150 mph.

More than 100,000 households had lost power in Louisiana by noon and were without electricity, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks outages nationwide.

Long lines formed at petrol stations on Saturday as people rushed to escape.

Trucks pulling saltwater fishing boats and campers streamed away from the coast on Interstate 65 in Alabama, where Ida is also predicted to hit, while traffic jams clogged Interstate 10 heading out of New Orleans.

The powerful Category 4 storm made landfall 16 years to the day Hurricane Katrina hit the state causing more than 1,800 deaths and more than £90 billion of damage.

The US National Hurricane Center defines a category 4 hurricane as one which will cause "catastrophic damage" causing "severe damage" to homes, snapping trees and downing power lines, causing power outages which could last for months and leaving the area uninhabitable for "weeks or months".

Arriving with a barometric pressure of 930 millibars, Ida goes down as tied for the fifth strongest hurricane to make landfall in the United States based on wind speed.

Based on central pressure it is tied for ninth strongest US landfall.

Ida had rapidly intensified overnight as its top winds grew by 45 mph to 150 mph in five hours.

Hurricane force winds started to strike Grand Isle on Sunday morning.

Before power was lost on the barrier island, a beachfront web camera showed the ocean steadily rising as growing waves churned and palm trees whipped.

In New Orleans, where water has begun spilling out of Lake Ponchartrain, authorities said Ida intensified so swiftly that there was no time to organise a mandatory evacuation of its 390,000 residents.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell urged residents to leave voluntarily. Those who stayed were warned to prepare for long power outages amid the heat.

New Orleans hospitals are planning to ride out the storm with their beds nearly full. Shelters for those fleeing carried a risk of new Covid-19 infections.

Forecasters warned winds stronger than 115 mph were expected soon in Houma, a city of 33,000.

Gov. John Bel Edwards vowed Louisiana's "resilient and tough people" would weather the storm.

He said officials were working to find hotel rooms for evacuees so that fewer had to stay in mass shelters.

University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy said "Ida will most definitely be stronger than Katrina, and by a pretty big margin".

He continued: "And, the worst of the storm will pass over New Orleans and Baton Rouge, which got the weaker side of Katrina."

Hurricane Ida nearly doubled in strength, going from an 85 mph storm to a 150 mph storm in just 24 hours, which meteorologists called "explosive intensification."

Jeff Masters, a former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hurricane hunter meteorologist and founder of Weather Underground, warned the region could face devastation to its infrastructure, which includes petrochemical sites and major ports.

President Joe Biden approved emergency declarations for Louisiana and Mississippi ahead of Ida's arrival.

A Category 3 storm, Katrina was blamed for 1,800 deaths as it demolished oceanfront homes in Mississippi and caused levee breaches and catastrophic flooding in New Orleans.

In Saucier, Mississippi, Alex and Angela Bennett spent Saturday afternoon filling sand bags to place around their flood-prone home.

Both survived Katrina, and did not expect Ida to cause nearly as much destruction where they live, based on forecasts.

"Katrina was terrible. This ain't gonna be nothing," Alex Bennett said.

"I hate it for Louisiana, but I'm happy for us."

Comparisons to the August 29, 2005 landfall of Katrina weighed heavily on residents bracing for Ida.