Tropical Storm Ida has prompted a hurricane watch for New Orleans and an emergency declaration for the state of Louisiana as it pushes across the Caribbean toward an anticipated strike on Cuba Friday.
As of Friday morning, Ida had wind strengths of about 40 mph as it traveled northward to Cuba. But forecasters say the storm could be near major hurricane strength by the time it reaches the northern Gulf Coast sometime late Sunday or early Monday.
A hurricane watch is already in effect for the New Orleans metropolitan area.
According to the National Hurricane Center, "major hurricanes" are defined as being Category 3 and up. Such storms pack maximum sustained wind speeds of at least 111 mph. The agency says they can uproot trees, cause major damage to well-built homes and shut down electricity and water access for "several days to weeks."
On Friday, Tropical Storm Ida is expected to bring heavy rainfall to parts of Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Cuba, potentially causing life-threatening floods and mudslides.
Dangerous storm surge is possible for the Gulf Coast depending on the tide by the time the system reaches the U.S.