Hurricane Ida hit the United States on Sunday as an extremely dangerous Category 4 storm that could leave much of the Louisiana coast underwater as the state battles a spike in COVID-19 that is already straining hospitals.
The National Hurricane Center reported that Ida gained strength overnight, faster than meteorologists had predicted just the day before, and hit the port near Port Fortune at 11:55 a.m. local time.
It will be the toughest test of hundreds of miles of new levees being built around New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, which hit the coast 16 years ago, inundating historically black neighborhoods and killing more than 1,800 people.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said the state may be hardest hit by the hurricane since the 1850s.
Louisiana is also dealing with the third-highest rate of new coronavirus infections in the country, with nearly 3,400 new cases reported as of Friday (27). Edwards said hospitals are treating about 2,450 patients with COVID-19, while other hospitals in the state are nearly full.
Ida, Sunday, was a Category 4 hurricane on the five-stage Sapphire-Simpson scale with winds of 150 mph (240 kph), the National Commission said.
Palm trees swayed as rain poured over New Orleans on Sunday morning as Robert Ruffin, a 68-year-old retiree, fled with his family to a hotel east of the city.
“I thought it was safer,” he said. “It’s a double problem this time because of the coronavirus.”
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