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Louisiana braces for 'life-altering' Hurricane Ida

12:19 AM Aug 29, 2021 | Associated Press

New Orleans: Residents across Louisiana's coast Saturday were taking one last day to prepare for what is being described as a "life-altering" Hurricane Ida which is expected to bring winds as high as 140 mph (225 kph) when it slams ashore.

A combination of voluntary and mandatory evacuations have been called for cities and communities across the region including New Orleans, where the mayor ordered a mandatory evacuation for areas outside the city's levee system and a voluntary evacuation for residents inside the levee system. But since the storm quickly escalated in intensity, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said it wasn't possible to order a mandatory evacuation for the entire city, which would require using all lanes of some highways to leave the city.

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The storm is expected to make landfall on the exact date Hurricane Katrina devastated a large swath of the Gulf Coast 16 years earlier. But whereas Katrina was a Category 3 when it made landfall southwest of New Orleans, Ida is expected to reach an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane, with top winds of 140 mph (225 kph) before making landfall likely west of New Orleans late Sunday.

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"This will be a life-altering storm for those who aren't prepared," National Weather Service meteorologist Benjamin Schott said during a Friday news conference with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Ida intensified rapidly Friday from a tropical storm to a hurricane with top winds of 80 mph (128 kph) as it crossed western Cuba. It's expected to pick up steam as it goes over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Early Saturday, Ida was centered 510 miles (825 kilometers) southeast of New Orleans. It was traveling northwest at 16 mph (26 kph), forecasters said.

In New Orleans, city officials said residents need to be prepared for prolonged power outages, and asked elderly residents to consider evacuating.

Collin Arnold, the city's emergency management director, said the city could be under high winds for about ten hours. Earlier Friday, Cantrell called for a mandatory evacuation for residents outside the city's levee protections - a relatively small sliver of the city's population.

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