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Tropical Storm Ida strengthens, projected to hit Gulf Coast as hurricane

Orlando Sentinel logoOrlando Sentinel 8/27/2021 Joe Mario Pedersen, Orlando Sentinel

Tropical Storm Ida strengthened overnight as the center passed through the Cayman Islands, forecasters said Friday morning. The Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft was en route to investigate the storm.

Formed Thursday evening in the west Caribbean Sea, Ida is projected to target the U.S. Gulf Coast by Sunday near major hurricane strength, the National Hurricane Center said.

As of 5 a.m., Ida was about 50 miles north-northwest of Grand Cayman with maximum sustained winds that increased overnight to 45 mph. It’s moving northwest at 15 mph.

Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 80 miles from the center.

It is expected to strengthen into a hurricane by Saturday thanks to warm sea-surface temperatures between 82 and 83 degrees — the right warmth for tropical growth.

“On the forecast track, the center of Ida will move away from the Cayman Islands this morning, pass near or over the Isle of Youth and western Cuba later today, and over the southeastern and central Gulf of Mexico tonight and Saturday,” the NHC said in its Friday morning advisory.

Ida could bring could also bring a dangerous storm surge to Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle by Sunday and Monday.

“Additional strengthening is likely over the Gulf of Mexico and the system could be near major hurricane strength when it approaches the northern Gulf coast,” according to the NHC.

Hurricane specialists predict the storm could have category 2 winds of 110 mph by Sunday.

The Cayman Islands has issued a Tropical Storm Warning for Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac. Cuba also issued a Tropical Storm Warning for the provinces of Matanzas, Mayabeque, Havana, Artemisa, Pinar del Rio, and the Isle of Youth.

Meanwhile, the NHC is also monitoring an elongated broad trough of low pressure producing disorganized showers and thunderstorms about 650 miles east of Bermuda.

A tropical depression is likely to form this weekend as the system enters a favorable Atlantic zone. Meteorologists give the system a 50% chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm in the next two days and an 70% chance of doing so over the next five days. The storm is expected to speed up Sunday.

Also, a tropical wave midway between the Cabo Verde Islands and the Lesser Antilles is booming with disorganized thunderstorms. Meteorologists are much more confident in the disturbance’s development into a tropical depression in the next two days.

The NHC gave it a 60% chance of development over the next two days and a 70% chance in the next five.

After Ida, the next two tropical storm names on the list are Julian and Kate.

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