NEW ORLEANS — More than a quarter of a million residents in lower-lying areas on the southeast and south central coast of Louisiana and in areas in the strike zone were being ordered to evacuate in advance of dangerous Hurricane Ida.
The storm, now forecast to be a Category-4 storm at landfall, is expected to make a landfall somewhere along the southeast to south central Louisiana coast Sunday afternoon to evening.
Hurricane warnings have been issued for most of the Louisiana coastline and some areas inland. A Hurricane Warning means that Hurricane conditions are expected in the next 48 hours.
"This is stronger than Laura," said Benjamin Schott of the National Weather Service. "This will be a life-altering storm for those who aren't prepared and ready to take what Ida is going to throw at us."
Lafourche, Terrebonne and St. Charles parishes are currently forecast to get a direct or near-direct hit from Ida and are under mandatory evacuation orders for their entire parishes. The three parishes together have just over 260,000 residents.
It is the same for the familiar areas of lower-lying Jefferson and areas of Orleans outside of the levee protection system.
"If you choose to stay, we want to make sure that you're aware that we could have no power for a week or more and we cannot guarantee other utilities such as water and sewer without interruption," said St. Charles Parish President Matthew Jewel.
Ida wasn't even a hurricane until midday Friday and it's expected to rapidly intensify and strike the south-central Louisiana coast as a major hurricane, likely as a category 4 storm.
The short notice had residents having to take quick and decisive action to either leave or to stay and do the best they can.
"We can't call for a mandatory evacuation," said New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. "We simply don't have the time."
"You should be cancelling all of your other events and be preparing for this storm," said Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng.
Despite a heavy presence of COVID in the parish, Jefferson Parish cancelled all of its testing and vaccination sites.
Sheng said people need to take into consideration the possibility of several days without power and having stores closed.
"There is not a lot of time," Cantrell said. "Where you are Saturday night is where you need to hunker down and stay."
New Orleans, which expects a lesser, but still significant impact from Ida, will again be depending on an aging and beleaguered drainage system that is plagued with power issues.
Sewerage & Water Board Executive Director Ghassan Korban struck a confident tone Friday ahead of Hurricane Ida in spite of lingering power and pump problems in the city’s drainage system.
Speaking at a news conference at City Hall, Korban sought to ease fears for residents in the section of Lakeview known as West End, around Fleur de Lis Boulevard. The area is drained by a small pump station with only one pump. The area flooded during heavy rains on Aug. 5, 2017, and March 24, 2021.
But now, the pump at Drainage Pump Station 12 is out-of-service.
The pump suffered seven separate power outages before and during heavy rains in the early morning hours of March 24, according to pump logs. That caused the pump to run backwards and draw water directly out of Lake Pontchartrain, sending it back into the neighborhood it was supposed to drain.