Now a hurricane, Ida made landfall in Cuba on Friday and was on track to cross the Gulf and hit Louisiana hard Sunday as a Category 3 storm. "The forecast track has it headed straight towards New Orleans. Not good," said a senior scientist with the Climate Service, per the AP. Mayor LaToya Cantrell ordered everyone who lives outside the protection of the city's levee system to not wait until Saturday or Sunday to evacuate. "Now is the time," Cantrell said. Ida posted maximum sustained winds of 75mph Friday afternoon, said the National Hurricane Center, which expected a hurricane warning to be issued for the region before the day was over. Parts of Cuba already are under a hurricane warning, per NBC.
While over the Gulf, forecasts say, Ida will develop into a major hurricane before making landfall in the Mississippi River delta late Sunday—exactly 16 years after Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, causing an estimated 1,800 deaths in the region. Rain is a concern along the Gulf Coast. As much as 16 inches could fall on southeast Louisiana to the Mississippi coast and Alabama by Monday morning. "The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the east of the landfall location," the weather service said, "where the surge will be accompanied by large and dangerous waves."
A storm surge at high tide could push water over levees. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a state of emergency on Thursday and asked for a pre-landfall Federal Declaration of Emergency on Friday. A dozen counties already issued their own states of emergency. Warning residents that the state is expecting a direct hit, Edwards said, "By Saturday evening, everyone should be in the location where they intend to ride out the storm." A retired New Orleans police officer was one of the many people buying supplies for his family at a Costco, where dozens of cars waited for gas. Wondell Smith was on duty during Katrina. "I know what that looks like," he said. (Read more hurricane stories.)