Ida to unleash widespread flooding, winds and tornadoes across South

By Courtney Travis, AccuWeather senior meteorologist Updated Aug. 30, 2021 12:35 PM MDT

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Ida tore a path of destruction across Louisiana as it moved over land as a hurricane for nearly 16 hours, killing at least one and leaving the entire city of New Orleans in the dark. But, AccuWeather forecasters warned that despite the fact that the National Hurricane Center (NHC) downgraded Ida to a tropical storm on Monday morning while it trashed parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, the storm’s rampage is far from over.

The tropical storm had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph and was located 20 miles west-southwest of Jackson, Mississippi, Monday morning. Ida was moving north-northeast at 15 mph. A cornucopia of watches and warnings, including tropical storm warnings, flash flood watches and warnings and tornado watches, were plastered across much of the South as the storm continued its trek inland.

The powerful tropical cyclone is likely to hold together through Monday as it moves over land, even after moving away from the warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, as it presses northward across the lower Mississippi River Valley. At the same time, a cold front will be sweeping through the northern tier of the United States.

Because of this combination, AccuWeather meteorologists predict that the impacts from Ida will expand well inland from where the hurricane made landfall along the Gulf Coast on Sunday.

“Away from the immediate Gulf Coast, Ida is expected to bring impacts from western Louisiana to Georgia and the central Florida Panhandle on northward through the Tennessee Valley and into the Northeast,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski.

Impacts will be vast and include damaging wind gusts in the Mississippi River Valley, tornadoes that could spin up along the system’s path and rain that will pour down up through the mid-Atlantic coast. Wind gusts of tropical storm strength, which is 39 mph or greater, may extend as far inland as southwestern Tennessee through Tuesday. However, the most widespread impact from Ida is expected to be the heavy, tropical rainfall associated with the storm.

The heaviest rain is likely to remain concentrated closer to landfall, allowing for 8-12 inches of rain across southeastern Louisiana and extreme southwestern Mississippi. An AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 24 inches is possible in this zone.

But, several inches of rain are forecast to fall across an area much farther northward and eastward from the Louisiana coastline.

“Following the path of Ida across the eastern United States will be a swath of heavier rain, likely to produce a total of 4-8 inches of rain,” Pydynowski warned. “Some of the locations in Tennessee that were hit hard with flooding downpours earlier this month” are along this projected path, he added.

In Tennessee, officials from the state’s Emergency Management Agency are warning that the system could trigger immense flooding in the state, including the same areas that are still reeling from last week’s tragic flooding. 

The heavy rain event in Humphreys County on Saturday, Aug. 21, dumped an estimated 17 inches of rain on the region, killing nearly two dozen and leaving catastrophic damage to property in its wake. 

As the central portions of the state have hardly begun addressing the devastation wrought by the immense flooding of Trace Creek in Waverley, Tennessee, the still-potent Ida is forecast to impact the west and middle portions of the state on Monday evening.

President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency for not just Humphreys County, but also Dickson, Hickman and Houston counties in Tennessee following the flooding.

In addition to the heavy rain in the Tennessee Valley, rain is also forecast to impact portions of the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. However, exactly how distinguishable Ida will be as a tropical system by that time is still in question.

“The same front that will be steering Ida eastward after it makes landfall will also merge with the tropical system. While it might be hard to find the center of Ida by the middle of the week, the transported tropical moisture will likely enhance rainfall from the Ohio Valley to the East Coast,” said Pydynowski.

More than 2 inches of rainfall is forecast to expand from the Tennessee Valley into portions of the Northeast and southern New England.

While there have been no confirmed reports of tornadoes from Sunday, additional investigation into storm-damaged areas may say otherwise along the Gulf Coast. AccuWeather meteorologists warn that a risk of tornadoes exists near and south and east of the track of the center of Ida.

Into Monday night, that risk extends through portions of Mississippi and Alabama, as well as middle Tennessee.

On Tuesday and Tuesday night, the tornado threat is expected to shift eastward and extend from eastern Alabama, middle Tennessee and northern Florida to the western portions of the Carolinas and southwestern Virginia.

On Wednesday, severe thunderstorms, including the risk of tornadoes, is expected to extend from the Carolina coast, northward to Virginia and Maryland and perhaps Delaware and southern New Jersey.

Behind Ida, high pressure is forecast to move into the eastern U.S. later on Thursday, bringing drier conditions for those recovering from the hurricane’s impacts.

Ida made landfall as an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane, packing 150-mph maximum sustained winds, near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, at 11:55 a.m. CDT Sunday. Residents along the Louisiana Gulf coast are still cleaning up from last year’s barrage of tropical landfalls. In preparation, mandatory evacuations were issued along parts of the Louisiana coastline.

Around 2 p.m. CDT on Saturday, Ida made a second landfall in the state southwest of Galliano, Louisiana. Maximum sustained winds at the time of the second landfall were 145 mph. 

Ida first began as a tropical rainstorm in the western Caribbean on Thursday, Aug. 26, and quickly ramped up. Ida reached hurricane status Friday afternoon before making its first of two landfalls in Cuba. Once it emerged over the bath-warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, it continued to intensify, and its maximum sustained winds were just 7 mph shy of Category 5 hurricane force when Ida struck the U.S. (Click to Source)

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