Hurricane Ida: ‘Life altering storm’ makes landfall in New Orleans on 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Ida has made landfall in the US state of Louisiana, with winds of 240km/h and a potentially “catastrophic” storm surge, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned.

Thousands of people fled the state ahead of the storm, but by Sunday morning it was too late to leave.

It could be the worst hurricane to hit Louisiana since the 1850s, state Governor John Bel Edwards said.

Ida gathered strength over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

It made landfall near Port Fourchon, south of New Orleans, as a category four hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale.

The storm is expected to bring cause severe damage to buildings, trees and power lines.

In some places the storm surge could be as high as 4.8 metre, potentially submerging parts of the low-lying coastline.

The impact of climate change on the frequency of storms is still unclear, but increased sea surface temperatures warm the air above, making more energy available to drive hurricanes.

As a result, they are likely to be more intense with more extreme rainfall.

“This will be a life-altering storm for those who aren’t prepared,” National Weather Service meteorologist Benjamin Schott said.

Ida made landfall on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, a category three storm that inundated New Orleans, killing more than 1,800 people.

The US National Weather Service (NWS) warned New Orleans residents to shelter in place immediately, if they had not already done so. “Go to an interior room or a small room with no windows. Stay put during this time,” the NWS tweeted.

Ida previously passed over western Cuba, hitting the Isle of Youth with maximum sustained winds of 120km/h.