Today marks the 16th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina slamming the north Gulf coast producing record breaking storm surge and going down as the costliest hurricane in history.
As Isa strengthens, and takes aim on southeast Louisiana, again, on the same day as Katrina made landfall, it begs the question “How does Ida compare to Katrina?”
First, let’s start with wind speeds. Ida’s maximum sustained winds are expected to reach 155 mph just before landfall. Katrina made landfall with recorded at 125 mph, making it a category 3 storm at landfall. This was still a major hurricane. Ida will have the strongest winds to hit Louisiana ever recorded (since records began in 1851). Previously, the maximum winds recorded were 150 mph for Last Island (1856) and Laura (2020).
Second, Ida’s path and Katrina’s path differ, in that Katrina came in directly from the south the the north, thus exacerbating the surge from Mississippi to New Orleans. Ida will be coming in from the the SE moving to the NW. We will still have dangerously high and catastrophic surges from 15-18 feet possible with Ida, but Katrina produced the record surge of 26 feet in Gulf Port MS. It was Katrina’s surge that completely leveled entire cities and forced many others under water.
As Ida is appraoching landfall, it is strengthening, something Katrina did not do. Katrina went from a category 5 storm, with winds of 175 mph and minimum pressure of 902 mb (7th lowest on record), to a category 3 storm and winds of 125 mph.
Unlike Ida, Katrina was a category 5 storm the day before landfall, and this caused major water level rises near the central Gulf coast from Dauphin Island, AL to Houma, LA. The water had no where to go but inland and up. This constant water inundation led to record surge heights and caused massive amounts of damage. The property damage alone was over $81 billion dollars.
Overall, Ida will be devastating and even though Ida will measure stronger than Katrina at landfall, Katrina will be more catastrophic because of the storm surge and subsequent levee failures in New Orleans.
Ida will cause significant damage. Coastal communities need to prepare for surge heights between 15-18 feet. Winds will devastating. There will be wide-spread power outages, and this could be the case for days in some areas. The weather will begin deteriorating quickly today along the Louisiana and Mississippi coast.
Many lessons were learned from Katrina that will prevent as much catastrophe. There are better evacuation plans. There are better systems in place to respond to hardest hit communities. There will be unavoidable damage with Hurricane Ida. We know that. The hope is that we have learned from Katrina so that we can at least mitigate the damage and loss of life.