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Hurricane Ida bears down on Gulf Coast

Associated Press / November 9, 2009

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NEW ORLEANS - Hurricane Ida, the first Atlantic hurricane to target the United States this year, plodded toward the Gulf Coast yesterday with 100 mile-per-hour winds, bringing the threat of flooding and storm surges.

A hurricane watch extended over more than 200 miles of coastline across southeastern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle, meaning hurricane conditions were possible in the next day and a half.

Governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency in Louisiana as the Gulf Coast braced for the arrival of Hurricane Ida, which was making its way across the Gulf of Mexico as a Category 2 storm.

The emergency declaration is a precaution that frees up state resources for any emergency situations. The National Guard and state agencies have been put on high alert so personnel and vehicles are available if needed.

Coastal stretches of southeast Louisiana, particularly areas outside levee protection, are the main concern. Forecasts indicate those areas could see winds, rains, and high tides that could create localized flooding.

No emergency declarations or other measures had yet been issued in the other states. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Ida’s winds could get stronger overnight.

The hurricane was moving to the northwest near 10 miles per hour lastnight, and Ida was expected to pick up steam as it moved over open waters in the Gulf of Mexico. The center of the storm was 95 miles west-northwest of the western tip of Cuba and about 510 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Ida was expected to reach the Gulf coast by tomorrow, said Jack Beven, a hurricane specialist at the center. It will probably interact with a weakening cold front over open seas and will most likely be a tropical storm or a low-level hurricane when it gets there, Beven said.