Tropical Storm Ida on track to hit Gulf Coast as hurricane

The US National Hurricane Centre said Ida was expected to cross the tobacco-rich western stretch of Cuba as a tropical storm starting Friday afternoon and then strengthen, reaching the Gulf Coast by Sunday.

Tropical Storm Ida formed in the Caribbean and forecasters said its track was aimed at the US Gulf Coast, prompting Louisiana’s governor to declare a state of emergency.

“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,” Edwards said on Thursday.

“By Saturday evening, everyone should be in the location where they intend to ride out the storm,” the governor added.

The US National Hurricane Centre said Ida was expected to cross the tobacco-rich western stretch of Cuba as a tropical storm starting Friday afternoon and then strengthen, reaching the Gulf Coast by Sunday.

“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 Centre said.

“Ida certainly has the potential to be very bad,” said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.

Late Thursday, Ida had sustained maximum winds of 40 mph (65 kph) and was travelling northwest at about 13 mph (20 kph). It was centred about 120 miles (195 km) west of Negril, Jamaica, and about 115 miles (185 km) southeast of Grand Cayman.

Tropical storm-force winds extended as far as 70 miles (110 km) north of the centre.

The storm was forecast to deliver anywhere from 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) of rain over parts of Jamaica, Cuba and the Cayman islands, with the potential for more in some isolated areas.

Forecasters warned of possible flash floods and mudslides and tidal storm surge of as much as 2 to 4 feet above normal, along with ‘large and destructive waves’. The Cayman Islands government said nonessential government offices closed at 2:30 pm Thursday and four shelters were activated.

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