Hurricane Laura is rapidly evolving into what forecasters believe will be a “catastrophic” Category 4 hurricane that could destroy homes and ravage communities as it swirls closer toward Texas and Louisiana.
Satellite images indicate that Laura — now “a formidable hurricane” — underwent a significant intensification, “and there are no signs it will stop soon,” the National Hurricane Center said in a Wednesday morning briefing.
The storm is expected to strike the upper Texas or southwest Louisiana coast as a major hurricane by late Wednesday or early Thursday, according to the Weather Channel.
The storm’s maximum sustained winds have increased to near 110 mph with higher gusts, according to forecasters.
“We are expecting widespread power outages, trees down. Homes and businesses will be damaged,” Donald Jones, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Lake Charles, Louisiana, near the bull’s-eye of Laura’s path, told the Associated Press. “I’m telling you, this is going to be a very serious situation.”
According to the weather service, a Category 4 hurricane could cause damage that “will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”
The storm is expected to increase to 120 mph before landfall and send ocean water surging onto land along more than 450 miles of coast from Texas to Mississippi.
In the largest US evacuation amid the coronavirus pandemic, more than half a million people have been ordered to flee an area of the Gulf Coast along the Texas-Louisiana state line.
More than 385,000 residents were ordered to leave the Texas cities of Beaumont, Galveston and Port Arthur.
“If you decide to stay, you’re staying on your own,” Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie said.
In Calcasieu Parish, southwestern Louisiana, another 200,000 were ordered to leave as forecasters predicted a storm surge of up to 13 feet, topped by waves.
The forecast is particularly alarming for…
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