Hurricane Laura could strengthen to a Category 5 storm before landfall

‘Apocalyptic’ Category 4 Hurricane Laura makes landfall in Louisiana with catastrophic 150MPH winds – as Gulf prepares for ‘unsurvivable storm surge’ that will ’cause many casualties’

  • Hurricane Laura made landfall in southwest Louisiana as an ‘extremely dangerous’ Category 4 hurricane 
  • The National Hurricane Center said the storm, which intensified rapidly Wednesday before plowing into land, came ashore at 1 a.m. CDT near Cameron, LA 
  • It had maximum sustained winds of 150mph (240kph), making it the most powerful hurricane to strike the U.S. so far this year 
  • The storm surge could penetrate inland from between Freeport, Texas, and the mouth of the Mississippi River, and could raise water levels as high as 20ft in parts of Cameron Parish, Louisiana, the NHC said  
  • It’s expected to bring an ‘unsurvivable storm surge’ that could damage buildings 30 miles into TX and LA   
  • Officials in both states issued mandatory evacuation orders for more than half a million people on Tuesday 
  • Residents waited in long lines in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Galveston, Texas, to board buses to evacuate  

Hurricane Laura crashed into Louisiana with ferocious 150mph winds today amid fears it will swamp the low-lying coast with an ‘unsurvivable’ 20ft surge of ocean water.  

The Category 4 monster made landfall at 1am with the strongest winds that Louisiana has seen since 1856 and warnings that the storm could penetrate up to 200 miles inland. 

Storm surges are looming as the Gulf Coast faces 10 inches of rain coupled with a high tide, the National Hurricane Center says – while tornadoes could form at the edges of the weather system. 

Laura reached land near the small town of Cameron around 30 miles from the Texas border, where officials went door-to-door pleading with people to flee the path of the storm amid fears the entire parish will be inundated.   

Footage showed torrents of rain flying sideways past street lights in Lake Charles, and streets covered with water closer to the coast, while a sudden storm surge knocked over cameras meant to capture the hurricane’s effects.

With hours of violent weather ahead, officials said the extent of destruction likely wouldn’t be clear until daybreak, when search and rescue missions will begin.    

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Hurricane Laura began to pummel Lake Charles, Louisiana late Wednesday, with powerful winds gusting over 70mph

Satellite image shows Hurricane Laura reaching the coasts of Louisiana and Texas at 7.20pm Pacific time Wednesday 

Forecasters have predicted even stronger winds that could rip apart buildings, level trees and toss vehicles like toys

A single truck is parked in an open lot as heavy rains from hurricane Laura fall in Lake Charles, Louisiana late Wednesday night

A car near Vermilion Bay is seen partially submerged in waters brought by Hurricane Laura approaching Abbeville, Louisiana 

Palm trees began to sway back and forth in Lake Charles, Louisiana on Wednesday as powerful winds reached the city on Wednesday 

Trung Nguyen boards up his brother’s convenience store Food Etc in Abbeville, Louisiana, U.S., as Hurricane Laura approached the gulf coast

A woman looks out at the beach in front of a boarded-up building as waves from Hurricane Laura roll Wednesday evening in Galveston, Texas

At 150mph, the hurricane’s winds were the strongest to make landfall in Louisiana since the Last Island Hurricane of 1856, said meteorologist Philip Klotzbach of Colorado State University. 

Hurricane Katrina came in at 125mph, although the 2005 storm which caused up to 1,800 deaths and $125billion  of damage was worse when measured by pressure. 

The winds have taken Laura close to the threshold of a Category 5 storm, the highest on the Saffir-Simpson scale and defined as sustained winds of 157mph or more.   

‘This is one of the strongest storms to impact that section of coastline,’ said David Roth, a forecaster with the National Weather Service. 

‘We worry about that storm surge going so far inland there because it’s basically all marshland north to Interstate 10. There is little to stop the water.’ 

The storm grew nearly 87 per cent in power in just 24 hours to a size the National Hurricane Center called ‘extremely dangerous’, making it the powerful hurricane to strike the US so far this year.  

The storm surge could penetrate inland from between Freeport, Texas, and the mouth of the Mississippi River, and could raise water levels as high as 20 feet in parts of Cameron Parish, the NHC said.

‘To think that there would be a wall of water over two stories high coming on shore is very difficult for most to conceive, but that is what is going to happen,’ said NWS meteorologist Benjamin Schott at a news conference.  

‘The word “unsurvivable” is not one that we like to use, and it’s one that I’ve never used before,’ Schott said of the storm surge.

Forecasters also warned hurricane-level winds could also blow as far as 200mi inland to Shreveport, Louisiana. 

Ocean water topped by white-capped waves began rising ominously as the monster neared land on Wednesday afternoon. 

One major Louisiana highway already had standing water as Laura’s outer bands moved ashore with tropical storm-force winds. 

Thousands of sandbags lined roadways in tiny Lafitte, and winds picked up as shoppers rushed into a grocery store in low-lying Delcambre. 

A business is shown boarded up on Seawall Boulevard ahead of the storm in Galveston, Texas. Laura rapidly strengthened to a Category 4 hurricane during the day, prompting the National Hurricane Center to describe the accompanying storm surge as ‘unsurvivable’

Sandbags were placed in front of a store before the arrival of Hurricane Laura in downtown Lake Charles, Louisiana on Wednesday after residents were told to evacuate or shelter

Eliza Boleware unloads a grocery cart full of essentials into her car at Walmart, in Vidalia, Louisiana

A cemetery along Privateer Blvd in Barataria, Louisiana is inundated in water as water levels surge before Hurricane Laura makes landfall

Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards fretted that the dire predictions were not resonating despite authorities putting more than 620,000 coastal residents under mandatory evacuation orders.

Officials said at least 150 people refused pleas to leave and planned to weather the storm in everything from elevated homes to recreational vehicles in coastal Cameron Parish, which could be completely covered by ocean water.

‘It’s a very sad situation,’ said Ashley Buller, assistant director of emergency preparedness. ‘We did everything we could to encourage them to leave.’

Edwards activated the state’s entire National Guard. In Lake Charles, Guard members drove school buses around neighborhoods, offering to pick up families. 

Temporary housing was being hastily organized outside the surge zone for evacuated residents, and emergency teams were being strategically positioned, state and federal emergency management agencies said.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Pete Gaynor posted pictures of portable shelters at Camp Beauregard, Louisiana, about 115 miles north of the Gulf Coast.

Across the state line in Port Arthur, Texas, few stragglers boarded evacuation buses, and city officials announced that two C-130 transport planes offered the last chance to leave. 

Abbott warned that people who fail to get out of harm’s way could be cut off from help long after the storm hit.

A Category 4 hurricane can render wide areas uninhabitable for weeks or months and knock out power for just as long. 

As of 10pm Wednesday, Hurricane Laura was just 7mph short of becoming a menacing Category 5 storm before making landfall

Forecasters say the hurricane looks likely to make landfall later tonight just east of the Louisiana border with Texas – an area particularly vulnerable to the 20ft wall of water the hurricane is forecast to blow 40mi inland

Stacy Stewart, a senior hurricane specialist, said: ‘We could see storm surge heights more than 15 feet in some areas’

‘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,’ the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned (above) Wednesday morning

Flash flood warnings have been issued for several coastal cities in Texas and Louisiana. Tornado watches have been also been issued to cities in both states 

This satellite image shows Hurricane Laura moving in the Gulf of Mexico towards Louisiana and Texas on Wednesday

The threat of such devastation posed a new disaster-relief challenge for a government already straining under the coronavirus pandemic. The parts of Louisiana that were under evacuation orders included areas turning up high rates of positive COVID-19 tests.

The National Hurricane Center kept raising its estimate of Laura’s storm surge, from 10 feet (3 meters) just days ago to twice that size – a height that forecasters said would be especially deadly.

Late Wednesday, Laura was churning about 75mi (120km) south of Lake Charles and moving north-northwest at 15mph (24 kph).  

‘Some areas, when they wake up Thursday morning, they’re not going to believe what happened,’ said Stacy Stewart, a senior hurricane specialist.’What doesn’t get blown down by the wind could easily get knocked down by the rising ocean waters pushing well inland.’ 

Storm surge along the Gulf Coast could raise water levels to as high as 12 feet to 15 feet in Intracoastal City and Morgan City, Louisiana, and Laura was expected to drop 5 to 10 inches of rain over the region, the NHC said. 

Weather experts say that Laura underwent what’s known as ‘rapid intensification’, a phenomenon where a tropical cycle intensifies by at least 35mph in a 24-hour period.  

‘Heed the advice of your local authorities. If they tell you to go, go! Your life depends on it today,’ said Joel Cline, tropical program coordinator at the National Weather Service. ‘It’s a serious day and you need to listen to them.’

Hurricane warnings were issued from San Luis Pass, Texas, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana, and reached inland for 200 miles. Storm surge warnings were in effect from Freeport, Texas, to the mouth of the Mississippi River.

A Cameron Parish Sheriff deputy wipes his face as he mans a roadblock in the rain on LA 27 while residents evacuate Cameron in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Wednesday 

Louisiana State Police warned residents to please ‘stay weather aware,’ and if they encounter ‘high water’ to turn around and find an alternate route

Houston residents Thomas Mezquiti and his son Drake Mezquiti, 13, fish ahead of Hurricane Laura in Galveston, Texas, on Wednesday 

A gas terminal is seen as the first band of rain from Hurricane Laura passes in Lake Charles, Louisiana on Wednesday 

Chris Colvert takes a photograph of the 1900 Storm statue on Wednesday in Galveston, Texas, as Hurricane Laura moves toward the Gulf Coast

Cody Cloud walks back toward the beach after taking pictures of the waves Wednesday in Galveston, Texas, as Hurricane Laura moves toward the Gulf Coast

A man walks along the beach Wednesday in Galveston, Texas, as Hurricane Laura moves toward the Gulf Coast

Josue Blanco (left) and Alex Mendez photograph waves generated by Hurricane Laura as they crash into the rock groin at 37th Street in Galveston, Texas on Wednesday

The Shark Shack Beach Bar and Grill is boarded up on the nearly deserted Strand Street in Galveston as business owners and residents wait for Hurricane Laura on Wednesday

‘Devastating wind damage will occur near where #Laura makes landfall in the hurricane warning area. Well-built homes may incur major damage, trees will be snapped or uprooted, and electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks,’ the center added. 

A National Weather Service meteorologist in Lake Charles, Louisiana – in the bullseye of Laura’s projected path – took to Facebook Live to deliver an urgent warning for people living south of Interstate 10 in southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas.

‘Your life will be in immediate and grave danger beginning this evening if you do not evacuate,’ Donald Jones said.

In the largest US evacuation of the pandemic, more than half a million people were ordered Tuesday to flee from an area of the Gulf Coast along the Texas-Louisiana state line.

More than 420,000 residents were told to evacuate the Texas cities of Beaumont, Galveston and Port Arthur. 

Another 200,000 were ordered to leave the low-lying Calcasieu and Cameron parishes in southwestern Louisiana, where forecasters said as much as 13 feet of storm surge topped by waves could submerge whole communities.

Officials say the storm surges and downpour of rain could leave an area the size of Rhode Island underwater in Louisiana.

The storm was also expected to spawn tornadoes Wednesday night over Louisiana, far southeastern Texas, and southwestern Mississippi, the NHC said. 

People line up to board buses to evacuate Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Wednesday morning ahead of Hurricane Laura 

Victoria Nelson with her children Autum Nelson, 2, Shawn Nelson, 7, and Asia Nelson, 6, wait to board a bus evacuating Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Wednesday 

Christopher Thomas holds one-year-old Taiyren Sylvester as they wait to board buses to evacuate Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Wednesday 

Port Arthur Firefighters check temperatures of people arriving at the civic center where evacuation buses wait in Port Arthur, Texas, on Wednesday 

Evan Raggio and other people purchase supplies at the Stine hardware store before the arrival of Hurricane Laura on Wednesday in Lake Charles, Louisiana 

Marvin Weikal (right) and other people purchase supplies at the Stine hardware store in Lake Charles on Wednesday 

David Rosenbaum Jr helps load plywood into vehicles as people purchase supplies at the Stine hardware store before the storm on Wednesday 

Lake Charles Fire Department personnel Alvin Taylor (right) and Jeremy Harris (left) assist Tim Williams into a transport van as he evacuates Lake Charles, Louisiana on Wednesday 

Houston SPCA staff members Linnea Wood (foreground) and Calista Stover carry pets from the Galveston Island Humane Society, onto a Wings of Rescue plane headed to Dallas/Fort Worth on Tuesday 

Ropes are used to tie a house down ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Laura in Rutherford beach near Cameron, Louisiana on Wednesday 

On Tuesday locals in Louisiana boarded up their homes and business and filled sandbags to keep their houses dry. In Galveston, Texas, long lines of locals waited to board buses to be taken to Austin to wait out the storm. 

‘If you decide to stay, you’re staying on your own,’ Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie said. 

Urging people in southwest Louisiana to evacuate before it’s too late, Louisiana Gov Edwards said they need to reach wherever they intend to ride out the storm by noon Wednesday, when the state will start feeling the storm’s effects.

‘Wherever you are by noon is where you’ll have to ride out the storm. Be smart and be safe,’ Edwards tweeted. 

Officials urged people to stay with relatives or in hotel rooms to avoid spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. 

Buses were stocked with protective equipment and disinfectant, and they would carry fewer passengers to keep people apart, Texas officials said.

Even before dawn Wednesday, officials in Austin said the city had run out of free hotel rooms to offer evacuees and had begun directing families fleeing the storm to a shelter nearly 200 miles farther north.

‘Everyone´s recent memory is Harvey. We want them to evacuate,’ said Bryce Bencivengo, a spokesman for the Austin´s homeland security and emergency management office.

Whitney Frazier, 29, of Beaumont spent Tuesday morning trying to get transportation to a high school where she could board a bus to leave the area.

‘Especially with everything with COVID going on already on top of a mandatory evacuation, it´s very stressful,’ Frazier said.

Yvonne Lancgo, of Lake Charles, waits to board a bus to evacuate Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Wednesday 

Members of the Louisiana National Guard prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Laura on Wednesday in Lake Charles, Louisiana

Members of the Louisiana National Guard stage near a high school before the arrival of Hurricane Laura in Lake Charles, Louisiana on Tuesday as Laura upgraded from a storm to a hurricane

The Louisiana National Guard has mobilized 98 high water vehicles and 55 boats for response efforts 

Louisiana National Guard Sgt Aaron Dugas prepares a boat for the arrival of Hurricane Laura on Wednesday in Lake Charles, Louisiana

Power outages are extremely likely in Lake Charles and possible for surrounding cities, including Little Rock and Memphis 

Severe weather is possible in multiple cities through Thursday night, according to forecasters 

The wind gust forecast shows 75mph gusts or more for Lake Charles, Louisiana, early Thursday morning

Shelters opened with cots set farther apart to curb coronavirus infections. Evacuees were told to bring a mask and just one bag of personal belongings each.

‘Hopefully it’s not that threatening to people, to lives, because people are hesitant to go anywhere due to COVID,’ Robert Duffy said as he placed sandbags around his home in Morgan City, Louisiana. ‘Nobody wants to sleep on a gym floor with 200 other people. It’s kind of hard to do social distancing.’

Kathleen Tierney, the former director of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado, said: ‘We need to be concerned about the federal capacity to respond to a major hurricane disaster, particularly in light of failings that are all too obvious in the public health area. I really worry: Who’s minding the store?’

Laura also is expected to dump massive rainfall over a short period of time as it moves inland, causing widespread flash flooding in states far from the coast. 

Flash flood watches were issued for much of Arkansas, and forecasters said heavy rainfall could move to parts of Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky late Friday and Saturday. 

Reeling from the storm: Residents of Port-au-Prince, Haiti pictured cleaning up a street reduced to rubble from the passage of Tropical Storm Laura on Tuesday

A man removes mud outside of a store in Haiti that was decimated by Laura, then a tropical storm, before it upgraded to a hurricane on Tuesday

Laura’s arrival comes just days before the August 29 anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which breached the levees in New Orleans, flattened much of the Mississippi coast and killed as many as 1,800 people in 2005.

Less than a month later, Hurricane Rita struck southwest Louisiana as a Category 3 storm.

The storm also imperiled a center of the US energy industry. The government said 84 per cent of Gulf oil production and an estimated 61 per cent of natural gas production were shut down. Nearly 300 platforms have been evacuated.

‘If Laura moves further west toward Houston, there will be a much bigger gasoline supply problem,’ Oil analyst Andrew Lipow said, since refineries usually take two to three weeks to resume full operations. 

While oil prices often spike before a major storm as production slows, consumers are unlikely to see big price changes because the pandemic decimated demand for fuel

Laura passed Cuba and Hispaniola, where it killed nearly two dozen people, including 20 in Haiti and three in the Dominican Republic.

The deaths reportedly included a 10-year-old girl whose home was hit by a tree and a mother and young son crushed by a collapsing wall.

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