Hurricane Ida was the second-most damaging hurricane to strike the U.S. state of Louisiana on record, behind only Hurricane Katrina, and is tied for the strongest landfall in the state by maximum winds with Hurricane Laura a year prior and the 1856 Last Island hurricane. Ida was the sixth-costliest hurricane on record, surpassing Ike of 2008. The ninth named storm, fourth hurricane, and second major hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, Ida originated from a tropical wave in the Caribbean Sea that developed into a tropical depression on August 26.
The depression organized further and became Tropical Storm Ida later that day near Grand Cayman. Amid favorable conditions, Ida intensified into a hurricane on August 27, just before moving over western Cuba. A day later, the hurricane underwent rapid intensification over the Gulf of Mexico and reached its peak intensity as a strong Category 4 hurricane while approaching the northern Gulf coast. On August 29, the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Ida made landfall near Port Fourchon, Louisiana.
Ida weakened steadily over land, becoming a tropical depression on August 30 as it turned northeastward. On September 1, Ida transitioned into a post-tropical cyclone as it accelerated through the northeastern United States, before moving out into the Atlantic on the next day. Throughout its path of destruction in Louisiana, more than a million people had no power in total. The storm has caused seven indirect deaths, including a Louisiana man mauled to death by an alligator after walking through Ida’s floodwaters.
The storm has caused at least $50 billion in damages, of which $18 billion was in insured losses in Louisiana, making Ida the sixth-costliest tropical cyclone on record. Thousands of crew members were deployed in Louisiana, and hundreds were rescued. States of emergency were declared for Louisiana and portions of the Northeast.
On August 23, the National Hurricane Center first noted the potential for tropical cyclone development in the southwestern Caribbean Sea, related to a tropical wave that entered the eastern Caribbean Sea on the same day. By August 25, the NHC assessed a high likelihood of development as the wave moved westward through the Caribbean. By 15:00 UTC on August 26, the system had attained sufficient organization to be classified as Tropical Depression Nine, about 115 mi south-southwest of Negril, Jamaica.
Ida as an extratropical storm over the Northeastern United States
As Ida neared the Louisiana coast, it further strengthened to its peak intensity with 1-minute sustained wind speeds of 150 mph and a minimum central barometric pressure of 929 mbar around 14:00 UTC. Ida’s central pressure dropped 40 mbar in 12 hours overnight from August 28 to 29. At peak, the hurricane displayed a pronounced satellite presentation, with a near-symmetrical structure and a well-defined eye with an impressive stadium effect visible. At 16:55 UTC, Ida made landfall near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, with sustained winds of 150 mph and a central pressure of 930 mbar , tying the 1856 Last Island hurricane and Hurricane Laura as the strongest landfalling hurricane on record in Louisiana, as measured by maximum sustained wind, and trailing only Hurricane Katrina, as measured by central pressure at landfall.
Following landfall, Ida only slowly weakened at first, remaining a dangerous major hurricane. On August 30, Ida weakened into a depression, as it moved inland. As the system moved through the Northeastern United States on September 1–2, it combined with a frontal zone to unleash unprecedented rains across the region, regaining tropical-storm-force winds in the process, before moving out into the Atlantic. There has been no formal study of the exact impact of climate change on Hurricane Ida yet.
On August 26, 2021, the Cayman Islands were put under a Tropical Storm Warning. Many people piled into grocery stores and hardware stores to grab supplies having Hurricane Grace that hit Cayman just a week earlier fresh in everyone’s minds.
Hurricane Ida over western Cuba late on August 27
On August 28, 800 individuals, including teachers and students monitoring turtles on the Guanahacabibes Peninsula, were evacuated due to Ida, according to the head of civil defense in the area. Tornado watches were issued for parts of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi on August 29. A high risk for flash flooding was issued on August 29, encompassing much of New Orleans and surrounding areas.
The Louisiana National Guard making preparations for the storm
On August 27, the preseason NFL football game for the Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints, originally scheduled for the next day at Caesars Superdome, was cancelled due to the storm’s forecast of being a major hurricane at the time of its landfall. On August 28, New Orleans mayor LaToya Cantrell issued a mandatory evacuation for all parts of the city which are outside of its flood protections area. That same day, President Joe Biden signed an emergency declaration for Louisiana ahead of the storm. In a briefing that was held on August 28, one day prior to landfall, Edwards anticipated Ida to be one of the strongest hurricanes to affect the state since the 1850s.
In Mississippi, at least 15 school districts and universities were ordered to close on Monday, August 30, along with a dozen casinos ahead of the impact of the storm.
On August 30, rains were still expected in southeastern Louisiana, coastal Mississippi, and a warning of heavy rainfall was issued for southwestern Alabama. Similar warnings were issued for the coming hours for the valleys of Tennessee and Ohio as well as the Mid-Atlantic region as the storm moves further north. Extreme rainfall was expected for New York City, with Central Park possibly seeing more than September’s monthly average in just one day. In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf signed a proclamation of disaster emergency on August 31 in anticipation of flooding, severe storms, and tornadoes from the remnants of Ida.
In Cuba, numerous palm trees were downed on Isla de la Juventud due to hurricane-force winds that struck the island. La Fe recorded 50 mph winds and gusts up to 71 mph on August 27. Despite the hurricane, many hospital workers continued to work during the storm.