Late forming Ida poised to strike Gulf Coast

For the first five months of the 2009 hurricane season, not one tropical system came close to striking the Gulf coast. That is sure to change this week, however, as Tropical Storm Ida is poised to strike somewhere in the northeast part of the Gulf, possibly as soon as Tuesday morning.

A tropical storm warning extended from Pascagoula, Miss., east to Indian Pass, Fla. Tropical storm warnings and watches are in effect across other areas of southeastern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, including New Orleans. Governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency as a precaution, and the National Guard was on high alert if assistance was needed.

As of press time Monday, Ida was located 185 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and moving northwest near 30 kilometers per hour. The latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center shows Ida brushing near Louisiana and Mississippi, then making landfall near Alabama before continuing across north Florida.

Nearly 1,400 Louisiana residents are still living in federally issued trailers and mobile homes after hurricanes Katrina and Rita; nearly 360 units remained in Mississippi.

“FEMA stresses that those in temporary (housing) units should not take chances,” Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman Andrew Thomas said. “Leave the unit behind and evacuate to a permanent structure that will better withstand tropical weather systems and the associated winds.”

Earlier, heavy rain in Ida’s wake triggered flooding and landslides in El Salvador that killed 124 people. One mudslide covered the town of Verapaz, about 30 miles outside the capital, San Salvador, before dawn Sunday.

It has since weakened to a tropical storm with further weakening a possiblility before it makes landfall.

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