Towering seas stretching between Guadeloupe and the east coast of Cuba, leisured pine tree line and baritone windfalls the sound of a hurricane unlike any other in recent history.
Hurricane Ida has been “quiet” for the better part of the past 24 hours, but that is likely to change. The storm is expected to make landfall on Saturday, with hurricane warnings in place for part of Florida and Georgia. The Atlantic Ocean is forecast to see an 8-11ft storm surge along many coasts, with officials warning of a potentially devastating encounter between the powerful system and the landmass of Cuba and the Bahamas.
Hurricane Ida is a massive storm – almost 200 miles wide – with hurricane force winds extending 205 miles, a serious threat to shipping, tourism and agriculture.
Ida’s path, although relatively tight, has seen steady daily movement since developing as a non-tropical storm on Thursday. The storm, packing peak winds of 155 mph – on a par with destructive Category 5 Katrina, that struck in 2005 – is currently 11 miles southeast of St Martin and 26 miles west of St Barts, packing maximum sustained winds, as the storm approaches, of 145 mph.
The latest A (for Atlantic) and C (for Caribbean) maps have shown a northward shift in the storm’s track. Initially forecasters expected it to move northwest across Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, but this has become the most likely trajectory given tropical surges and tide surges which could outstrip even the most powerful hurricanes.
Seas are expected to reach maximum height between 5ft and 8ft in some areas. According to NOAA’s latest hurricane centre briefing, a surge of 5ft or more is expected between Cienfuegos and the northeastern Bahamas. That would be similar to a Category 4 hurricane. And while there’s now a lightening chance of a direct hit on Miami, it’s not out of the question. The forecast for the eyewall is for a north-northeast to north-west motion around 50 mph through Saturday, continuing on Sunday.
Ida is expected to produce a total of 10 to 15 inches of rain in some areas, with isolated totals of 20 inches possible in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and elsewhere. This could result in life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.
With another hurricane forming in the northern Atlantic, Hurricane Leslie is set to become the second named storm of the year. Leslie was last seen in the Atlantic around 500 miles southeast of Newfoundland, Newfoundland. It is not forecast to affect land.