Hurricane Ida intensifies to Category 4 storm ahead of landfall

Hurricane Ida intensified to a Category 4 storm early Sunday, hours before it is expected to make landfall along the Louisiana coast.

The National Hurricane Center said Ida is “expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane when it makes landfall,” adding that “rapid weakening” is expected afterward.

Ida’s strength quickly intensified overnight, increasing from top winds of 115 mph in a 1 a.m. update to 145 mph just a few hours later, according to The Associated Press.

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It was traveling northwest at 15 mph in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

The hurricane is expected to make landfall Sunday afternoon on the 16th anniversary of when Hurricane Katrina slammed Louisiana and Mississippi.

The Weather Channel reported on was that the storm was expected to reach Category 4 strength when it hit the Gulf Coast.

Ida was upgraded from a tropical storm to a hurricane on Friday before hitting Cuba, and was then elevated to a Category 2 storm as it made its way toward the U.S.

Ida’s landfall is coming at a difficult time for Louisiana, as the state is currently grappling with a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The state’s low vaccination rate and the highly infectious delta variant have added to concerns regarding the virus during the hurricane.

Hospital beds are reportedly nearing capacity in the state.

The hurricane has caused officials in the state to grapple with establishing shelters for displaced evacuees despite the heightened risk of COVID-19 spreading.

According to Reuters, Louisiana has the third-highest incidence of COVID-19 infections per 100,000 people in the U.S. over the past seven days.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) on Saturday said the state has "resilient and tough people" who would weather the storm, adding that shelters would function at reduced capacities "to reflect the realities of COVID."

That same day, Edwards warned that Hurricane Ida would be "one of the strongest" since the 1850s.