As the season’s first Atlantic hurricane takes aim on the northern Gulf of Mexico coast, Gulf Islands National Seashore closes vulnerable areas and gets visitors out of harm’s way.
At 6:30 a.m. Monday, November 9, Hurricane Ida was centered about 340 miles south of Pensacola, Florida, and moving NNW at about 16 mph. Rated a Category I hurricane, Ida packed sustained winds of around 90 mph.
Hurricane warnings have been posted all along the northern Gulf Coast from Biloxi, Mississippi to Indian Pass, Florida. As the forecast cone in the accompanying photo shows, NOAA forecasters think Ida will make landfall in the Pensacola, Florida, vicinity (or perhaps to the east) sometime late tonight or early Tuesday morning.
The good news is that Ida is not much of a hurricane and will soon grow even weaker. Forecasters are not even sure that Ida will still be a hurricane by the time it makes landfall. It may arrive as just a tropical storm instead. In any event, Ida will slow down and degrade into an extratropical storm very soon after landfall. It is destined to be caught up in a cold front , make a sharp turn to the east, and then get blown out into the Atlantic.
The bad news is that Ida is powerful enough to cause significant coastal impacts. Strong winds, heavy rainfall, and storm surge (tides several feet above normal) can be expected to yield downed trees, power outages, flooded roads, overwash, and related problems.
Because Gulf islands National Seashore lies directly in the path of this unusual late-season hurricane, Superintendent Jerry Eubanks has activated the park’s Type 3 incident management team and taken action to protect people and property. The Mississippi barrier islands, Fort Pickens, and the east end of Perdido Key in the Florida District were all closed as of 10:00 p.m. Sunday. All visitors were evacuated, including Fort Pickens campers and Night Owl pass holders in Florida as well as visitors on Cat, Horn, Petit Bois, East Ship and West Ship Islands.
Postscript: The hurricane season officially extends from the first of June to the end of November, but late season storms like this one are rare. If Ida maintains hurricane strength to landfall, it will be only the fourth November hurricane to have struck this coast since record keeping began.