- Tropical Storm Ida is strengthening in the Caribbean Sea.
- This system is forecast to grow into a major hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico this weekend.
- Interests along the northern and western U.S. Gulf Coast should monitor this system closely.
A hurricane watch stretches from Cameron, Louisiana, to the Mississippi-Alabama state line, including the New Orleans metro area. Hurricane watches are typically issued 48 hours in advance of when tropical storm-force winds are expected to arrive since these conditions make it difficult to make preparations for a hurricane, once they begin.
A storm surge watch has also been issued from the Texas-Louisiana state line to the Alabama-Florida state line, including Vermilion Bay, Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and Mobile Bay. This means dangerous flooding from storm surge is possible within the next 48 hours.
Finally, a tropical storm watch has been issued along the Alabama coast, where tropical storm conditions are possible within 48 hours.
Tropical storm warnings continue for portions of the Cayman Islands and western Cuba. These areas could see tropical-storm-force winds (39+ mph) through Friday.
Interests near the coast from Louisiana to Alabama should monitor Ida’s progress closely and begin hurricane preparations. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says there is an increasing risk for hurricane-force winds, flooding rainfall and life-threatening storm surge Sunday and Monday, especially in Louisiana.
Tropical Storm Ida is located in the western Caribbean Sea, centered near Grand Cayman, moving northwest.
Ida became the ninth named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season late Thursday afternoon while located between Grand Cayman and Jamaica, based on measurements by a U.S. Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter mission.
(MORE MAPS: Spaghetti Models, Rainfall Outlooks, etc.)
Forecast Intensity, Track
The NHC expects Ida to become a hurricane over the southeast Gulf of Mexico on Saturday.
An area of high pressure over the Southeast U.S. will be the large-scale steering wheel for the system, with its clockwise circulation sending it northwestward toward a landfall somewhere along the Louisiana or Mississippi coast Sunday.
Ida may undergo a period of rapid intensification as a hurricane when it tracks through the Gulf of Mexico this weekend. That’s because Gulf of Mexico water temperatures are plenty warm, upper-level winds should be favorable and there’s plenty of moist air available.
Therefore, Ida is currently expected to be near major hurricane strength when it approaches the northern Gulf Coast.
Ida could make landfall as a major hurricane on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfalls in southeast Louisiana and Mississippi.
Keep in mind that impacts will arrive before any landfall and that impacts could extend outside the forecast path shaded red in the map above.
The NHC is forecasting water levels to rise to 2 to 4 feet above normal tides as Ida passes through western Cuba in areas where winds blow onshore.
Along the Gulf Coast, the following storm surge inundations are possible if the peak surge happens at high tide.
-Morgan City, Louisiana, to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, including Lake Borgne: 7 to 11 feet
-Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana to Morgan City, including Vermilion Bay: 4 to 7 feet
-Ocean Springs, Mississippi, to the Mississippi-Alabama border: 4 to 7 feet
-Alabama coast including Mobile Bay: 3 to 5 feet
-Lake Pontchartrain: 3 to 5 feet
-Lake Maurepas: 2 to 4 feet
-Sabine Pass to Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana: 2 to 4 feet
This peak surge will occur within an hour or two of Ida’s landfall. However, some coastal flooding could also occur in areas of onshore flow as soon as Saturday night that may cut off escape routes from the coast.
The NHC also notes that overtopping of local levees outside of the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System is possible where local inundation values may be higher.
Tropical storm conditions could arrive along portions of the northern Gulf Coast as soon as Saturday night, which will make hurricane preparations difficult.
Damaging hurricane-force winds capable of downing trees, widespread power outages and some structural damage are possible in the hurricane watch areas possibly as early as Saturday night and continuing into Sunday, including the New Orleans metro area.
At least tropical storm-force winds are expected to punch into inland parts of Louisiana and Mississippi into Monday.
(PERSPECTIVE: Beware the ‘I’ Storm)
Bands of heavy rainfall up to 20 inches could also trigger dangerous flooding and landslides in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and western Cuba through Friday.
Along parts of the northern Gulf Coast, the NHC is forecasting 8 to 16 inches of rain, with isolated 20-inch totals Sunday into Monday, which could trigger flash flooding and river flooding that could linger for several days after the storm.
This flood threat will also likely penetrate inland into the Deep South and Tennessee Valley Monday and Tuesday. The NHC expects rainfall totals of 4 to 8 inches across southern and central Mississippi.
High Surf, Rip Currents
High surf and rip currents will affect the northern Gulf Coast beginning Saturday night or early Sunday.
Forecast changes are likely over the next couple of days, so check back with us at weather.com for important forecast updates.
Now is a good time to ensure you have a hurricane plan in place in case this system becomes a growing threat where you live.
The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.