MIAMI, Florida, August 26, 2020 (ENS) – “Catastrophic storm surge, extreme winds and flash flooding” are expected along the northwest Gulf Coast tonight as Laura, an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 hurricane, blows inland, with landfall forecast overnight near the Louisiana-Texas border.
Hurricane Laura is projected to make landfall in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana just after midnight tonight, packing winds of 145 miles per hour.
Now located 155 miles equidistant from Lake Charles, Louisiana and Port Arthur, Texas, the center of Laura is forecast to move over northwestern Louisiana on Thursday, across Arkansas Thursday night, and over the mid-Mississippi Valley on Friday.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami warned today, “Unsurvivable storm surge with large and destructive waves will cause catastrophic damage from Sea Rim State Park, Texas, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana, including Calcasieu and Sabine Lakes. This surge could penetrate up to 40 miles inland from the immediate coastline, and floodwaters will not fully recede for several days after the storm.”
Rapid weakening is expected after Laura moves inland, but not before the “unsurvivable” storm surge pushes water as much as 30 miles in from the coast.
The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the right of the landfall location, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves, the Hurricane Center said.
Laura pounded Cuba as a Tropical Storm on Monday with heavy rains and coastal swells in low-lying areas, but no fatalities have been reported.
Earlier Monday, Laura roared along the southern coast of Haiti, leaving 20 dead, five missing, and four injured, officials reported. Four more deaths were reported in the nearby Dominican Republic.
In its latest bulletin at 4:00 pm CDT, the U.S. National Hurricane Center called Laura “a life-threatening situation” warning urgently, “Storm surge and tropical-storm-force winds will arrive within the warning areas well in advance of Laura’s center. All preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion in the next few hours.”
Hundreds of thousands of residents living in low-lying coastal areas are under mandatory evacuation orders.
Officials in Calcasieu Parish issued a mandatory evacuation for their 200,000 or so residents, as did officials in the smaller neighboring Cameron Parish, near the Texas border. Another 385,000 residents of Beaumont, Galveston and Port Arthur, Texas were also told to flee, the Associated Press reported.
And the residents are paying heed to the evacuation orders and fleeing inland – some for several hundred miles.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, told reporters Tuesday night, “Laura is shaping up to look a lot like Rita did 15 years ago in terms of its forecast intensity and in terms of where it’s supposed to make landfall in southwest Louisiana. All of coastal Louisiana should brace for storm surge.”
Louisiana has been coping continuously with big storms since Monday.
Tropical Storm Marco made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River Monday with minimal impact, but Marco and Laura together are making history. It’s unprecedented that such two major storms have struck a single state so close together.
“We’ve never seen two hurricanes hitting the same state back to back within 48 hours, as is anticipated in the coming days in Louisiana,” Governor Edwards said.
“At the same time, we are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes the prospect of evacuations, search and rescue and mass sheltering complicated and difficult,” the governor said. “We will work alongside our federal and local partners to manage this unique and challenging group of disasters.”
Tuesday, President Donald Trump expanded an earlier emergency declaration to cover emergency protective response actions that Texas and Louisiana state, local and tribal officials take in the areas affected by Hurricanes Laura and Marco beginning Aug. 22, 2020 and continuing.
“I would like to thank President Trump for his quick approval of federal assistance for Louisiana and for pre-positioning FEMA assets and other federal support for our state during this unprecedented weather event,” Governor Edwards said.
“We’ve never seen two hurricanes hitting the same state back to back within 48 hours, as is anticipated in the coming days in Louisiana. At the same time, we are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes the prospect of evacuations, search and rescue and mass sheltering complicated and difficult,” the governor said. “We will work alongside our federal and local partners to manage this unique and challenging group of disasters.”
On the Texas side of the border, Texas Governor Greg Abbott held a news conference Tuesday evening, with stern warnings of his own.
“The power of Hurricane Laura is unprecedented, and Texans must take action now to get out of harm’s way and protect themselves,” said Governor Abbott.
“The conditions of this storm are unsurvivable, and I urge Southeast Texans to take advantage of these final few hours to evacuate, secure their property and take all precautions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe,” he said. “The State of Texas is prepared to respond to the storm, and we are working alongside federal and local officials to keep Texans safe.”
Governor Abbott today waived several regulations related to commercial vehicles to assist in Texas’ response to Hurricane Laura. The suspensions include waiving certain size and weight permitting requirements, which will help expedite the delivery of food, water, equipment, medical supplies, and other resources to help communities impacted by the storm. These waivers were requested by and will be coordinated through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
“These suspensions will accelerate the delivery of critical supplies to help ensure that communities in the path of Hurricane Laura have access to the resources they need to respond and recover,” said Governor Abbott. “As Hurricane Laura heads towards Southeast Texas, Texans should continue to heed the guidance of their local officials and take all necessary precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones.”