Ida’s rapid intensification did not catch meteorologists off guard


GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Hurricane Ida devastated portions of the Gulf Coast, ripping apart buildings and leaving millions without power. Many people have asked if the strength of Ida caught people off guard.

Ida was a beast of a storm. It was the third major hurricane in roughly a year to make landfall in Louisiana, and the fifth strongest based on wind speed to ever hit the US. The system went through something known as rapid intensification, when winds increase by at least 35 mph in less than a day.

Ida’s winds went from 85 to 150 miles per hour in less than 24 hours before making landfall. The reason it was able to gain so much strength was hot sea surface temperatures along the Gulf Coast, between 86-90 degrees. Marshy areas allowed the storm to remain at major hurricane strength for eight hours after landfall before eventually weakening.

But did Ida catch meteorologists off guard? The short answer, no.

Ida was one of the most accurately forecasted storms by the National Hurricane Center. The first advisory was issued four days before landfall and nailed the track of the storm within 50 miles. The NHC even forecasted the rapid intensification, with people along the Gulf Coast having a 72-hour notice that a major Category 4 hurricane would be making landfall.

Although not all storms are equally predictable, compare the track forecasts from Ida vs Katrina. It’s quite impressive. Technology, modeling, and the general understanding of hurricanes have increased exponentially in less than two decades.

It’s extremely important to take the National Hurricane Center’s forecasts seriously and listen to your local meteorologists. We all need to be prepared throughout the entire hurricane season.

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