Thousands flee U.S. Gulf Coast as Hurricane Ida nears
President Biden and officials are calling on Gulf Coast residents to urgently finalize preparations for Hurricane Ida ahead of its expected landfall in Louisiana as an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm on Sunday.
Driving the news: Thousands of residents had already left Saturday, as Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said at a news briefing that the "window of time" for hurricane preparation was "rapidly closing" as the weather would "deteriorate very quickly" Sunday.
- At least five parishes in southeast Louisiana have called for mandatory evacuations ahead of the storm. New Orleans issued a mandatory evacuation order on Friday for areas outside of the city's levees.
Of note: President Biden has approved emergency declarations for Louisiana and Mississippi to enable federal assistance and spoke with Gulf states governors Saturday, ahead of Ida's expected arrival on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency has deployed nearly 500 employees to Louisiana and Texas, and more than 2,000 staffers to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
- The entire Louisiana National Guard, which includes about 5,000 members, has been deployed to respond to the storm, per The Advocate.
What they're saying: Biden said at a briefing with the FEMA on Saturday that officials had "prepositioned food, water, generators and other supplies" in the likely impacted region.
- "Power restoration and mobile communications support teams are also en route," he added. "We've also closely coordinated with the electric utilities to restore power as soon as possible."
- Edwards warned at his briefing, "This will be one of the strongest hurricanes to hit anywhere in Louisiana since at least the 1850s."
Flashback: Hurricane Laura made landfall in southwestern Louisiana as a Category 4 storm in August last year.
What to expect: Hurricane Ida was gaining strength Saturday over the Gulf of Mexico and predicted to hit southeastern Louisiana.
- The storm has the potential to cause significant damage from high winds, nearly 2 feet of rain and up to 15 feet of storm surge.
- New Orleans is likely to experience hurricane-force winds and a storm surge.
Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.