Hurricane Ida strengthens into Category 4 storm as it nears Gulf Coast landfall

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(CNN)Hurricane Ida became a Category 4 storm early Sunday morning, rapidly intensifying to sustained winds of 150 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.That’s just 7 mph from making Ida a Category 5 storm. It was 60 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River, NHC forecasters said in a 7 a.m. ET update, as the storm continued its march toward Louisiana and the Gulf Coast at 15 mph.The hurricane has quickly increased in intensity since striking Cuba on Friday, threatening to be an “extremely dangerous major hurricane” when it makes its projected landfall along the Louisiana coast Sunday afternoon.Ida gained 35 mph in sustained wind speed in just six hours, the NHC said.

“Ida is poised to strengthen further and based on recent satellite images it appears that strengthening is imminent,” the NHC said earlier.Outer bands from the storm are already making their way onshore across the Gulf Coast, impacting southeastern Louisiana, including New Orleans. A weather station at Southwest Pass reported sustained wind of 60 mph and a gust to 74 mph in the early morning hours.

A hurricane warning remains in effect from Intracoastal City, Louisiana, to the mouth of the Pearl River and includes Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and New Orleans.There is also a danger of life-threatening storm surge inundation Sunday in areas along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

The impacts of rainfall, wind and storm surges will extend far from the center of the storm, the NHC said, and warnings have been issued to residents that have felt the effects of major storms both in the past year and historically.If Ida makes landfall in Louisiana as forecast, it would be the fourth hurricane to slam the state since last August and Louisiana’s third major hurricane landfall in thattime span.A Sunday strike would also fall on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s Gulf Coast landfall, which led to the deaths of more than 1,800 people in the region.”August 29 is an important date in history here,” Collin Arnold, director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, told CNN Saturday. “A lot of people remember what happened 16 years ago. It’s time to hunker down tonight and be where you need to be.”

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