Baton Rouge and surrounding communities should expect to see the worst of Hurricane Ida from around 10 p.m. Sunday to 1 a.m. Monday, the National Weather Service says.
That's when hurricane-force winds — meaning 75 mph or more — are expected to hit East Baton Rouge Parish, central-western Livingston Parish, like Denham Springs and Walker.
Ida made landfall shortly before noon Sunday near Grand Isle at Port Fourchon as a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 145 mph. The storm made a second landfall around 2 p.m. in Galliano.
"It’s not really showing a whole lot of weakening yet," Bob Wagner, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said around 5:45 pm. Sunday. "We certainly do at some point, during the evening hours, expect to see some weakening, but, even around midnight tonight, we're still looking at low-end, hurricane force-sustained winds along center, which is going to be up there in the Baton Rouge metro area at that point."
Before 5 p.m., Baton Rouge airport had already seen sustained winds approaching 30 mph with a gust of 47 mph.
The airport in Gonzales to the south has see sustained winds over 30 mph, with one gust hitting 51 mph shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday.
Baton Rouge and some of its eastern suburbs had been targeted for more intense winds Saturday as forecasts had put Ida's eye passing just west the Mississippi River. But the track has shifted eastward since then and has put the storm's eye on a path to send it more through the Walker area.
Still, Baton Rouge remains inside Ida's powerful wind field, in particular the eastern parts.
Wagner said areas south of Baton Rouge can expect the heaviest winds sooner Sunday evening: the Prairieville area about 10 to 11 p.m., the Convent area in St. James Parish around 8 to 9 p.m.
Ascension Parish Sheriff Bobby Webre said winds were starting to pickup in Ascension by 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Due to heavy winds and a lack of traffic, he had pulled crews off the road who were removing fallen trees. They won't return until winds die down, he said.
The winds have already wrecked the parish's power grid, with 14,000 to 15,000 without power. The losses include his District 2 headquarters and 911 center in Gonzales. Both are operating on generator power.
"We're just riding it out," Webre said.
In St. James Parish, parish officials had reported sustained winds of 75 mph in Convent shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday. They were also receiving reports of damage to homes and businesses, with trees down and widespread power outages.
While rainfall has been relatively light in the Baton Rouge so far, Wagner promised that the heavy rains were coming as more of Ida's bands cross over the core of the Baton Rouge area. Each of those bands can drop 2 to 3 inches in an hour, Wagner said, quickly piling up rainfall accumulations and sparking flash flooding.
"It's coming," he said.
The rain bands can be expected to start in a major way in the Baton Rouge around 7 p.m. Sunday.
But he said the worst of that rain is likely to be a little bit east of Baton Rouge, in eastern Ascension, lower Livingston and southern Tangipahoa parishes.
The Clinton area in East Feliciana Parish can expect the heaviest winds around 2 to 3 a.m. Monday, but the weakening of Ida may mean sustained winds will be below hurricane force. Wind gusts could still reach that level, Wagner said.