Hurricane Laura is likely to become a category 4 storm by the time it makes landfall along the Texas and Louisiana coasts early Thursday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center, after hundreds of thousands of residents were evacuated and shelters prepare to take in people while preventing spread of the coronavirus.
“Satellite images indicate that Laura has become a formidable hurricane since yesterday evening,” the National Hurricane Center wrote in a 4 am ET update, and “life-threatening storm surge” is expected to stretch between Texas’ San Luis Pass to the mouth of the Mississippi River, a distance of around 400 miles.
The Hurricane Center advised that “actions to protect life and property should be rushed to completion as water levels will begin to rise later today.”
According to the government’s hurricane classification scale, a category 4 storm will see sustained winds between 136 to 156 mph, causing “severe damage” to “well-framed homes” and “ loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls.”
“Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months,” the Hurricane Center warns.
Shelters in Texas are preparing for an influx of people—and spacing cots and getting COVID-19 tests ready, in order to prevent the transmission of coronavirus within the indoor spaces.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Laura will likely mirror Hurricane Rita’s force when it slammed the state 15 years ago, and advised residents to shelter with family members or in hotels to prevent spreading COVID-19.
30. That’s how many miles the storm surge could flood inland along Texas and Louisiana’s coasts, according to the Hurricane Center.
“Some areas, when they wake up Thursday morning, they’re not going to believe what happened,” senior hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart told the Associated Press.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
What happens when Laura makes landfall. “We could see storm surge heights more than 15 feet in some areas,” Stewart said. “What doesn’t get blown down by the wind could easily get knocked down by the rising ocean waters pushing well inland.”
Laura’s arrival coincides with the three year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey slamming into Texas and causing massive flooding in Houston. And it arrives just days before the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a devastating storm that breached New Orleans’ levees and killed as many as 1,800 people. The 2020 storm season is anticipated to be more active than ever, as warmer sea surface temperatures fuel storm development.