Hurricane Laura Bears Down on Texas and Louisiana, Forecast to Grow

Date: Wednesday, August 26, 2020
Source: The Wall Street Journal

The hurricane’s fierce winds are reaching far inland, as tens of thousands evacuate

Hurricane Laura gathered strength in the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday, as it churned toward the Texas and Louisiana coasts, where it is projected to make landfall as a Category 3 storm late Wednesday or early Thursday.

The hurricane, a Category 1 storm with 80 mile-an-hour winds as of Tuesday evening, is forecast to unleash a storm surge as high as 13 feet, causing life-threatening flooding, according to the National Hurricane Center. Officials in Texas and Louisiana issued mandatory evacuation orders in a dozen coastal cities and counties and voluntary evacuation orders in numerous others. Shelters prepared to receive evacuees at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is gripping both states.

“There will be a lot of devastation wreaked upon Texas, as the storm sweeps through,” said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at a news briefing Tuesday afternoon. Fierce winds are expected to extend far inland, he said.

Tropical storm Marco, which had reached hurricane force over the weekend and had threatened to batter the same stretch of coast, ended up fizzling Monday night without causing significant damage.

Hurricane Laura moved into the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday after passing over Cuba. It was moving northwest at a rapid clip over the Gulf’s warm waters, which are expected to fuel its growth, with winds reaching 115 mph before landfall.

“All indications are that the hurricane should steadily to rapidly intensify,” the National Hurricane Center said.

Hurricane conditions are possible from San Luis Pass, Texas, to Morgan City, La., according to the center.

Storm surge threatens a stretch of coast from San Luis Pass to the mouth of the Mississippi River. The surge, combined with rainfall of 5 to 10 inches—with isolated instances of up to 15 inches—could trigger widespread flash flooding and urban flooding, the center said.

More than 430,000 homes in Texas and Louisiana, with a reconstruction cost value of $88.6 billion, are at risk of storm-surge damage, according to an analysis by CoreLogic Inc., a financial and property data firm.

“The forecast that we have for Laura causes me to have tremendous concern and should cause the people of Louisiana to be concerned as well,” said Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards at a news briefing Monday. “We need to take every precaution, take this one very, very seriously.”

Mr. Edwards said the state was coordinating with federal authorities to preposition pumps and other equipment to deal with the storm’s effects.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said the state was mobilizing National Guard troops and transportation teams, as well as helicopters and aircrews, to help with search-and-rescue operations or evacuations. He said the storm was expected to hit one of the most wooded regions of the state, potentially felling high numbers of trees.

Mr. Abbott urged evacuees to consider staying in hotels if possible, given the threat of viral spread in shelters or homes packed with relatives and friends.

“Everyone must ensure that they protect their lives also from contracting Covid-19,” he said.

 

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