The New Orleans Saints announced they’ve canceled their preseason finale against the Arizona Cardinals scheduled for Saturday as Louisiana prepares for the landfall of Hurricane Ida.
Kickoff for the Cardinals-Saints game at Caesars Superdome was originally scheduled for 5 p.m. MST but on Friday morning moved to 10 a.m. Arizona time.
The decision to cancel it altogether was announced at 2:36 p.m. MST Friday.
“The team encourages all residents of the region to take precautionary measures to remain safe throughout the impending hurricane,” the Saints said in their release.
The National Weather Service on Friday morning warned that the storm headed straight for New Orleans could hit as a Category 3 hurricane — that prediction was changed to expect a Category 4 storm in the afternoon just before the game was called off.
A hurricane watch for New Orleans and an emergency declaration for the state of Louisiana were declared Thursday.
The Saints said they have been in contact with city officials, the National Weather Service, Homeland Security and the NFL regarding the status of their game.
Ida struck Cuba on Friday and threatened to slam into Louisiana with far greater force over the weekend, prompting New Orleans’ mayor to order everyone outside the protection of the city’s levees to evacuate.
Ida intensified rapidly Friday from a tropical storm to a hurricane with top winds of 80 mph (128 kph) as it crossed western Cuba. The National Hurricane Center predicted it would strengthen into an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane, with top winds of 140 mph (225 kph) before making landfall along the U.S. Gulf Coast late Sunday.
Residents along Louisiana’s coast braced for Ida to bring destructive wind and rain on the exact date Hurricane Katrina devastated a large swath of the Gulf Coast exactly 16 years earlier. Capt. Ross Eichorn, a fishing guide on the coast about 70 miles (112 kilometers) southwest of New Orleans, said he fears warm Gulf waters will “make a monster” out of Ida.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.