Hurricane Laura reaches ‘extremely dangerous’ Cat 4 strength, NHC warns of ‘unsurvivable’ storm surge

Weather

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Hurricane Laura has reached “extremely dangerous” Category 4 strength ahead of its anticipated landfall on the Gulf Coast near Texas and Louisiana.

At 2 p.m. ET Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said Laura’s maximum sustained winds had increased to 140 mph. The storm was about 200 miles south-southeast of Lake Charles, Louisiana and 200 miles south-southeast of Port Arthur, Texas.

Laura is expected to reach the Louisiana and Texas coasts Wednesday night and move inland later in the night or Thursday morning. The hurricane is expected to produce potentially life-threatening storm surge, extreme winds and flash flooding along the northwest Gulf Coast on Wednesday evening, according to the NHC.

“Steps to protect life and property should be rushed to completion in the next few hours,” the NHC said in its 7 a.m. advisory.

Here are the impacts the NHC is warning of ahead of Laura’s landfall:

Storm surge

In its latest update at 2 p.m. ET, the NHC said “unsurvivable storm surge” and “large, destructive waves” will cause catastrophic damage from Sea Rim State Park in Texas to Intracoastal City in Louisiana. According to the NHC, storm surge could reach up to 30 miles inland in southwestern Louisiana and far southeastern Texas.

“This is a life-threatening situation. Persons located within (areas under a Storm Surge Warning) should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other dangerous conditions,” the NHC said. “Promptly follow evacuation and other instructions from local officials.”

According to the latest NHC forecast, storm surge could reach as high as 15 to 20 feet from Johnson Bayou, Louisiana to Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, including Calcasieu Lake. Sea Rim State Park, Texas to Johnson Bayou, Louisiana – including Sabine Lake – and Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge to Intracoastal City, Louisiana could see 10 to 15 feet of storm surge.

“The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the right of the landfall location, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves,” NHC forecasters said.

Wind

The NHC says hurricane conditions are expected by Wednesday night in areas under a hurricane warning. “Catastrophic wind damage” is expected where Hurricane Laura’s eyewall makes landfall.

Tropical storm conditions are already moving onshore ahead of Laura’s arrival. The NHC says tropical storm conditions are expected to reach the coast in the hurricane warning area later Wednesday.

“Hurricane-force winds and damaging wind gusts are also expected to spread well inland into portions of eastern Texas and western Louisiana early Thursday,” the NHC said.

Rainfall

The NHC says Laura is expected to produce rainfall totals of 5 to 10 inches across parts of the northwestern Gulf Coast and northward into Arkansas. Some areas could see maximum amounts of 15 inches.

“This rainfall will cause widespread flash and urban flooding, small streams and creeks to overflow their banks and minor to isolated moderate freshwater river flooding,” the NHC said.

Tornadoes

The NHC says a few tornadoes are expected later Wednesday in Louisiana, southeast Texas and southwest Mississippi.

The tornado risk is expected to continue Thursday in Louisiana, Arkansas and western Mississippi.

Watches and warnings in effect:

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for:

  • Freeport, Texas to the Mouth of the Mississippi River

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for:

  • San Luis Pass, Texas to Intracoastal City, Louisiana

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for:

  • Sargent, Texas to San Luis Pass
  • East of Intracoastal City, Louisiana to the Mouth of the Mississippi River

A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for:

  • Mouth of the Mississippi River to Ocean Springs, Mississippi
  • Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and Lake Borgne

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for:

  • East of Intracoastal City to west of Morgan City, Louisiana

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