Ida Threatens to Intensify Rapidly Upon Approach to New Orleans

As Hurricane Ida bears down on Louisiana and New Orleans, forecasters are worried the storm will explode in size and strength. 

A phenomenon known as rapid intensification occurs when a hurricane’s winds increase by about 35 miles per hour over the course of 24 hours, said Bob Henson, a meteorologist and the author of The Thinking Person’s Guide to Climate Change. Some of the worst storms in Atlantic history have done just that, including 2018’s Michael -- the last Category 5 system to strike the U.S. 

The National Hurricane Center said Ida could rapidly intensify as it rolls north after making landfall in Cuba. Conditions are near perfect across the Gulf of Mexico to support a storm and one of the telltale signs it’s happening will be a heavy burst of lightning wrapping around the storm’s core. 

Ida Threatens to Intensify Rapidly Upon Approach to New Orleans

“There is no major impediment that is obvious,” Henson said. Ida will transit over an eddy of water that is about 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 Celsius) and extends 15 stories below the sea surface. This means Ida will have plenty of fuel and little threat of cooler water welling up from the depths to take off some of the edge. “It’s close to the worst possible spot.” 

On top of that, the sea just of Louisiana’s coast is near 90 degrees, Henson said.

“It is not out of the question that Ida could continue to strength right up to landfall,” Henson said. 

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