Hurricane Ida 'One of the Strongest' for Louisiana in 170 Years, Governor Warns

It might be hard to believe that a Category 2 storm in the Gulf of Mexico expected to make landfall in less than 24 hours could be one of the worst hurricanes in the history of Louisiana. That's what Gov. John Bel Edwards said, though, using a pre-Civil War time frame to magnify his urgency.

As Hurricane Ida churned Saturday in the Gulf, Edwards held a briefing to give updates. That included a warning that Ida could be "one of the strongest" hurricanes to ever crash the Louisiana coastline.

"One of the things we were told today by the National Weather Service during our unified command group meeting is that they are are extremely confident in the current track and the intensity as forecasted for Hurricane Ida. And you don't really hear them speaking very often about that level of confidence," Edwards said.

"So, we can sum it up by saying this will be one of the strongest hurricanes to hit anywhere in Louisiana since at least the 1850s."

That's saying a lot, especially since the Louisiana coast has been vulnerable to hurricanes since the state's formation. And it's even more of a statement as Ida is expected to make landfall Sunday close to New Orleans on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's historic landfall in 2005.

Hurricane Katrina
A destroyed water tower and home are seen February 23, 2006 in Buras, Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina destroyed most of the homes in the area. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Ida was a Category 2 storm by Saturday afternoon, but the National Hurricane Center stated that warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico could fuel the storm, perhaps intensifying it to a Cat 4 storm (130-plus mph winds) before it makes landfall on Sunday.

The governors of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have each declared a state of emergency, of which President Joe Biden approved, and several parishes in southeast Louisiana were under mandatory evacuation orders. The city of New Orleans, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, did not order mandatory evacuations as its mayor said it was "too late" by Friday night.

Flights going in and out of Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans on Sunday have already been canceled. Edwards and local officials are warning residents who have not evacuated that time is running short, and to either go north or hunker down and hope for the best.

"Your window of time is closing, it is rapidly closing," Edwards said. "By the time you go to bed tonight, you need to be where you intend to ride this storm out and you need to be prepared as you can be."

Hurricane Katrina landed as a Category 3 storm in 2005, with its eyewall going just east of Louisiana and thrashing the Mississippi coast line. There were more than 1,800 lives lost in the aftermath of Katrina, including Louisiana.

Now, the Louisiana governor says this could be one of the worst storms in the history of the Bayou State.

Hurricane Katrina
A sign asking for information about unidentified coffins is seen at an above-ground cemetery February 23, 2006 in Buras, Louisiana. The cemetery was flooded during Hurricane Katrina causing a number of coffins to float away from their crypts. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images