Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Residents evacuate the New Orleans area amid warnings of Hurricane Ida's severity.

Residents drive north on Interstate Highway 55 near Magnolia, Mississippi, as they evacuate away from New Orleans on August 28, 2021 before the arrival of Hurricane Ida. (Photo: Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images)

Experts Warn of 'Potentially Catastrophic' Destruction as Hurricane Ida Reaches New Orleans

The storm is expected to be one of the strongest ever to hit Louisiana, rivaling Hurricane Laura in 2020.

Julia Conley

This is a developing story and may be updated. 

Weather experts on Sunday said their worst-case-scenario predictions about Hurricane Ida, which damaged homes and knocked down trees in Cuba on Friday, appeared to be coming true as the tropical cyclone made its way towards New Orleans with winds rushing at 150 miles per hour.

The hurricane made landfall Sunday afternoon in southeastern Louisiana.Thousands of people had evacuated on Saturday.
The National Hurricane Center warned the storm could bring "potentially catastrophic" damage from winds and a "life-threatening" storm surge in the coastal area, with destruction from flooding and other effects extending more than 100 miles inland.
Meteorologists recorded 150mph peak winds, putting the storm two miles per hour short of a Category 5 hurricane. 
Forecasters expressed anguish on social media and in weather reports as they watched the storm approach New Orleans on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall.
"Worst case scenario unfolding for Louisiana," said Tom Di Liberto, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). "Absolutely sick to my stomach seeing this."
The expected ocean surge could inundate areas with up to 16 feet of water in some places. New Orleans was expected to see more than a foot of rainfall. The National Weather Service warned that "extremely dangerous flash flooding" could result if the city gets more than 15 inches of rain, which could overwhelm its system of nearly 100 pumps. 
Locals who hadn't evacuated on Saturday were cautioned to shelter in place on Sunday morning, as the approaching storm's winds had already made highway travel perilous. 
Meteorologists are typically hesitant to connect a single extreme weather event to the climate crisis, but as Discover Magazine reported Saturday, the planetary emergency fueled by fossil fuel extraction is "supercharging" storms like Ida. 

"Monster storms cause enormous damage not only because of their winds," wrote Tom Yulsman, director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a blogger for the magazine. "They also dump unimaginable amounts of water. And research shows that thanks to climate change, they've been getting wetter."

Yulsman continued:

That's happening for a number of reasons. First, a warmer atmosphere can carry more moisture. Research shows that for every one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) increase in temperature, the atmosphere can hold 7 percent more moisture. So far, the globe has warmed by about 1.1 degrees Celsius since preindustrial times.

On Twitter, climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe said the question of whether the climate crisis "causes" hurricanes like Ida is "the wrong question."

"The right one is, 'How much worse did climate change make it?" Hayhoe said.

"Given that science has already showed that a warmer ocean and other aspects of climate change are leading to much faster intensification of hurricanes," Hayhoe added, "the question today is not, to paraphrase climate scientist Kevin Trenberth, how could climate change affect this event—but rather how could it NOT, as it is occurring over the massively altered background conditions of our 1.1C warmer planet."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

New Filing Reveals Sinema Pads Campaign Coffers With More Pharma and Finance Funds

"This is what someone who's bought and paid for looks like."

Brett Wilkins ·

'We're Not Stopping': Weeklong D.C. Climate Protests End With 650+ Arrests, Vows to Fight On

"There is no other planet to escape to. Water is life... They need to listen to the youth. They need to hear us speak our cries."

Brett Wilkins ·

Ousted by AOC, Joe Crowley Now Lobbying Against Tax Hikes on Corporate Giants

The former chair of the House Democratic Caucus once called the GOP's 2017 tax law a "scam," but now he's collaborating with Wall Street to undermine attempts at progressive reform.

Kenny Stancil ·

'Corporate Fraud at Its Worst': J&J Hides Behind Bankruptcy Amid Baby Powder Lawsuits

"Here we go again," said Elizabeth Warren. "Another giant corporation is abusing our bankruptcy system."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo