Hurricane Laura Upgraded to Category 4 Storm as Experts Warn Storm Surge Will Be 'Unsurvivable'
Hurricane Laura was upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane on Wednesday afternoon as it pummeled toward the U.S., bringing with it last-ditch warnings that those in affected areas should prepare for an “unsurvivable” storm surge.
The National Hurricane Center said in a public advisory that Laura’s strong winds made it an “extremely dangerous” storm, and that those in coastal areas of Texas and Louisiana would be hit with “catastrophic storm surge, extreme winds, and flash flooding” beginning Wednesday night.
“Little time remains to protect life and property,” the advisory said. “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 storm surge could penetrate up to 30 miles inland from the immediate coastline in southwestern Louisiana and far southeastern Texas.”
Laura was located about 200 miles southeast of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and about 200 miles southeast of Port Arthur, Texas on Wednesday afternoon, as it moved along with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph and speeds of 16 mph.
The center of the storm was forecast to move over northwestern Louisiana on Thursday, across Arkansas on Thursday night and over the mid-Mississippi Valley on Friday after making landfall in Upper Texas and southwest Louisiana Wednesday night, the advisory said.
Laura is expected to strengthen before making landfall, but will then weaken rapidly once it touches down.
Between 5 and 15 inches of rainfall in the area will also cause widespread flash and urban flooding, the hurricane center said, and residents should also brace for tornadoes over Louisiana, far southeast Texas and southwestern Mississippi.
As the hours ticked by, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards grew increasingly adamant in his push to get people to evacuate while they still could.
“We do believe that there will be extensive search and rescue following this storm, and that’s why we’re asking people to depopulate the area,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday. “Evacuate to minimize the number of people we have to then rescue from very dangerous conditions.”
Edwards said he’d activated the entire National Guard, and strongly encouraged people to avoid driving on flooded roadways.
“That’s what causes the most people to die, to be killed, as a result of the storms,” he said. “It doesn’t take much water to float an automobile, and you will sometimes lose control of the vehicle.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also urged residents to take action and evacuate before it was too late.
“The power of Hurricane Laura is deadly, & Texans must take action now to get out of harm’s way & protect themselves and their loved ones,” he wrote on Twitter. “The conditions of this storm are unsurvivable, Texans in the path of the storm are urged to evacuate immediately.”