The first major hurricane of the 2021 season is expected to form this weekend in the Gulf of Mexico.
Ida strengthened into a hurricane Friday afternoon with sustained winds of 75 mph. The system is expected to reach major hurricane strength in the coming days as it bears down on Louisiana.
Ida is forecast to reach the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday and rapidly strengthen over its warm waters into a Category 3 storm with winds of at least 111 mph.
All of Louisiana remained under a hurricane warning Friday. While there is still time for Ida to deviate from its projected path, the Pelican State is expected to be Ida’s point of landfall late Sunday night, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Those in Louisiana may also be required to evacuate along the coast, according to the hurricane center. Current projections call for seven to 11 feet of storm surge and up to 20 inches by rain. By comparison, Tampa Bay’s rainiest month — August — has an average of 7.77 inches of rainfall in 31 days.
“The time to prepare is now,” said Louisiana Governor John Bell Edwards on Thursday night. “The Gulf is absolutely ripe in terms of the conditions for rapid intensification of this storm.”
Edwards emphasized that Louisiana residents won’t have as much time to prepare for Ida as usual as the storm moves north at 15 mph.
“If you look out there right now and assess the storm as it is, you may not be impressed,” Edwards said. “But understand that the hurricane center is very concerned because they see all the conditions necessary for it to strengthen rapidly.”
Tampa Bay could see Ida’s rainy outskirts as it moves through the Gulf this weekend, according to the National Weather Service. The panhandle could see more significant impacts.
Forecasters are also monitoring two other disturbances in the Atlantic that could turn into tropical depressions over the weekend. One was given an 80 percent chance of formation and the other a 60 percent chance in the next five days. While they’re something to monitor, neither pose an imminent threat to Florida as of Friday morning.
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2021 Tampa Bay Times hurricane guide
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