Tropical Storm Ida prompted a hurricane watch for New Orleans and an emergency declaration for the state of Louisiana as it pushed across the Caribbean toward an anticipated strike on Cuba Friday. Ida could be near major hurricane strength by the time it reaches the northern Gulf Coast, which forecasters predict may happen sometime late Sunday or early Monday. The US National Hurricane Center said Ida was expected to cross the western stretch of Cuba as a tropical storm starting Friday afternoon, then strengthen over the southeastern and central Gulf of Mexico, the AP reports.
"Unfortunately, all of Louisiana’s coastline is currently in the forecast cone for Tropical Storm Ida, which is strengthening and could come ashore in Louisiana as a major hurricane as Gulf conditions are conducive for rapid intensification," said Gov. John Bel Edwards. "By Saturday evening, everyone should be in the location where they intend to ride out the storm," the governor added. A hurricane watch was in effect from Cameron, Louisiana, to the Mississippi-Alabama border—including Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and metropolitan New Orleans.
Dangerous storm surge was also possible for the Gulf Coast. Depending on the tide as Ida approached the coast, 7 to 11 feet of storm surge was forecast from Morgan City, Louisiana, to Ocean Springs, Mississippi. "There is an increasing risk of life-threatening storm surge, damaging hurricane-force winds, and heavy rainfall Sunday and Monday, especially along the coast of Louisiana,” the hurricane center said. "Ida certainly has the potential to be very bad," says Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami. (Read more tropical storms stories.)