Hurricane Ida: Crowds pack New Orleans airport as all flights canceled
All arriving and departing flights at New Orleans airport scheduled for Sunday were canceled, the airport tweeted, in anticipation of Hurricane Ida’s landfall.
The day prior, a massive crowd of travelers eager to get out ahead of the storm packed security checkpoints at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
The Transportation Security Administration for the airport said on Saturday that evacuations were intensifying security lines and advised all travelers to arrive at the airport three hours early.
The airport said staff is onsite monitoring the building to assess and address any potential damage throughout the storm so that airlines can resume flights once it’s safe to do so.
Hurricane Ida made landfall Sunday on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s ruinous strike on the Gulf Coast. With 150 mph winds, it was one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever strike the U.S.
In addition to the massive airport crowd, the region’s coastal highways also saw heavy traffic Saturday as people moved to escape the storm's path. Trucks pulling saltwater fishing boats and campers streamed away from the coast on Interstate 65 in south Alabama. Traffic jams clogged Interstate 10 heading out of New Orleans, where the worse weather is expected.
The storm rapidly intensified just hours from making its landfall in Louisiana. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says the system is a potentially catastrophic Category 4 hurricane.
Hurricane Ida nearly doubled in strength, going from an 85 mph storm to a 150 mph storm in just 24 hours, which meteorologists called "explosive intensification."
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Ida intensified so swiftly that New Orleans officials said there was no time to organize a mandatory evacuation of its 390,000 residents. Mayor LaToya Cantrell urged residents to leave voluntarily. Those who stayed were warned to prepare for long power outages amid sweltering heat.
About 2 million people live in and around New Orleans and Baton Rouge, with many fewer people along the Mississippi River and wetlands to the south, which will get the brunt of the hurricane first.
Ida poses a threat far beyond New Orleans. A hurricane warning was issued for nearly 200 miles of Louisiana's coastline, from Intracoastal City south of Lafayette to the Mississippi state line. A tropical storm warning was extended to the Alabama-Florida line, and Mobile Bay in Alabama was under a storm surge watch.
In Washington, President Joe Biden on Saturday called Ida "very dangerous" and urged Americans "to pay attention and be prepared."
This story was reported from Detroit. The Associated Press contributed.