The National Hurricane Center is now warning that it expects Hurricane Laura, currently Category 3, to intensify to a catastrophic Category 4 when it strikes the US on Wednesday night, as massive evacuations ordered.
Hurricane Laura was a Category 3 with maximum sustained winds near 115 mph and “rapidly intensifying” over the Gulf of Mexico, as of early Wednesday morning, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said, CBS reported.
The storm was moving northwest at 15 mph was located roughly 280 miles south-southeast of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and 290 miles southeast of Galveston Texas, according to the NHC.
The current forecast track for Hurricane Laura has the storm approaching the upper Texas and Southwest Louisiana coasts in making landfall in the region some time on Wednesday evening.
Officials have ordered over half a million people to evacuate, while there remains at least 20 million people within the storm’s path.
The NHC is now forecasting that Laura could strengthen into a Category 4 when it makes landfall some time on Wednesday evening.
If Laura strikes near high tide, around 2 AM ET on Thursday morning, storm surges could reach 10-15 feet and send water as much as 30 miles inland.
The NHC is warning of potentially life-threatening storm surges between 10-15 feet, extreme winds, and flash flooding on Wednesday night along the Northwest Gulf Coast, the Washington Post reported.
The coastal areas that could be affected by the hurricane stretch from Freeport, Texas, along the entirety of Louisiana coast, and to Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
Here are the differences in the definitions between a Category 3 and a Category 4 and the damage they cause, illustrating why a Category 4 is deserving of the title of “catastrophic.”
Maximum sustained winds between 130-156 mph. Very high risk of injury or death from flying debris to people, pets and livestock. Most mobile homes will be destroyed.
Homes, apartments and industrial buildings will see severe roof damage, while some homes may collapse and others see severe damage, especially upper floors. Windows on high-rise buildings will be blown out.
Trees and power lines will be downed. Power outages can last for weeks or months. Water shortages are common. Some areas may be uninhabitable for weeks or months, Time reports.
Maximum sustained winds between 111-129 mph. High risk of injury or death from flying debris to people, pets and livestock. Nearly all older mobile homes will be destroyed, significant damage to most new ones.
Major damage will occur to homes, apartments and industrial buildings. Trees and power lines will be downed. Power and water outages can last for several days following the storm.
Hurricane Laura is a life-threatening storm which is expected to affect people for miles inland. Prepare for power outages, and potentially water and food shortages.
Make sure you have at least a 3-day supply of food and water for you, your family and your pets. Have a first aid kit that also includes prescription medications.
Make sure you have a weather radio, flashlights, extra batteries for these items and a battery-powered backup charger for your phone, as well as candles and/or other types of lighting.
Prepare your home to withstand extreme weather. Protect windows and secure items that could be blown away.
Most importantly, have an evacuation plan. Know how, when and where you and your family need to go in case of an emergency that forces you to leave your home.
Don’t wait until the last minute to leave. Evacuation routes are likely to be crowded.
Make sure you have a way of communicating with all of your family members. If you don’t have a cell phone, get one now. There are many low cost deals, with no money upfront, and though even provide you with a new android phone free.
Lastly, be sure to review this hurricane preparation guide from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to know everything you need to prepare and do before the storm strikes.