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Ida limps toward land; could become nor'easter

An increasingly disorganized Ida weakened to tropical storm force overnight, but continues to pose a significant threat to the Gulf Coast and inland regions of the Southeastern U.S.

After landfall, the storm could reform off Cape Hatteras as an Atlantic coastal storm, bringing rain, wind, heavy surf, beach erosion and coastal flooding to shore communities from the Carolinas to New Jersey, forecasters say.

The biggest immediate worry is probably heavy rain and flooding in an area of the Deep South that has already seen more than enough rain this fall.

As Ida's center moves toward land Monday, wind shear is sending the heavy precipitation onshore well ahead of the surface low. Rainfall along the Gulf Coast today will likely total 3 to 6 inches, with some locations receiving as much as 8, forecasters said.

Once the storm's center finally reaches shore, high winds will bring water levels 3 to 5 feet above normal along the Gulf near and to the east of landfall, all compounded by large and destructive waves. 

Winds, meanwhile, have diminished. The storm's top sustained winds were "just" 70 mph at last check. All hurricane watches and warnings have been dropped. Tropical Storm Warnings remain in place from Grande Isle, La. to the Aucilla River, Fla. New Orleans and Lake Ponchartrain are included in the warning area.

Here is the latest advisory for Ida. Here is the forecast discussion. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from space. Ida may already have played a role in the heavy rains and mudslides that killed more than 120 people in El Salvador over the weekend.

AccuWeather.com's Alex Sosnowski, meanwhile, is looking ahead a few days. He says Ida's energy could reorganize off the Atlantic coast after mid-week, taking on the proportions of a strong nor'easter. That would mean gusty onshore winds, large swells, rough surf and coastal flooding for interests from Hatteras to the Jersey Shore, including Maryland and Delaware beaches.

"The angry sea will lead to strong and frequent rip currents," Sosnowski said. "Bathers are advised to avoid the water from Wednesday into the weekend." Likewise, small craft operators should stay in port from Florida to Long Island, at least until Friday.

Baltimore's forecast calls for a chance of showers Tuesday through Thursday.

As they depart, Ida's remnants are expected to draw cold air into the region, dropping daytime highs from the low 70s, which are expected to go today, to the 50s by the latter half of the week. "The threat of heavy snow with this event has diminished," he adds, "since the storm will quickly migrate to the coast."

Mr. Foot, take note.

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