(Reuters) – Hurricane Laura was expected to intensify rapidly into a Category 4 hurricane on Wednesday on a steady track to hit the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast after dark and caused catastrophic damage, the National Hurricane Center said.
The storm, already a Category 3 on the five-stage Saffir-Simpson scale to measure hurricane intensity early Wednesday, was about 290 miles southeast of Galveston, Texas, with maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour, Miami-based forecast champion sa. Category 4 hurricanes can pack winds of up to 156 miles per hour.
More than 420,000 Texas residents and another 200,000 people in neighboring Louisiana were under mandatory evacuation orders as state and federal rescue teams rushed to provide protection and get first responders on site for possible rescues.
"You only have a few hours to prepare and evacuate for #HurricaneLaura. Wherever you are at noon is where you have to ride out the storm. Be smart and be safe, "Louisiana Gov. John Edwards tweeted Wednesday morning.
Crude oil production in the Gulf of Mexico has been paralyzed as companies shut down operations. Output cuts are approaching 90%, a level not seen since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The storm was moving at about 1
"This storm could penetrate up to 300 miles inland from the immediate coastline of southwest Louisiana and far southeast Texas," the NHC said in an advisory Wednesday morning. "All preparations to protect life and property should be speeded up eventually. in the next few hours. "
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Pete Gaynor posted photos of teams bringing portable shelters to Camp Beauregard, Louisiana on Tuesday, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said his state national guard was on site with high-speed vehicles and rescue helicopters.
The storm was also expected to play tornadoes Wednesday night over Louisiana, far southeast Texas and southwest Mississippi, the NHC said. Extensive flooding in urban areas from the far east of Texas over Louisiana and Arkansas from Wednesday to Thursday.
"Prepare for the worst"
In Texas, many residents spent Tuesday unpacking and strengthening their homes and businesses for the expected pummeling of Laura, which begins on Wednesday.
"We have been through this before; we are prepared. All the centers have boarded their businesses and people are leaving the city," said Gina Spagnola, chairwoman of the Galveston Chamber of Commerce, as she went up to the windows on her own water. home on Tuesday.
Hidalgo County, Texas, called for voluntary evacuation in the coastal region around Houston, and shelters were set up in San Antonio, Dallas and Austin.
Houston, about 450 miles north of the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico, was pummeled 2017 by Hurricane Harvey, which killed at least 68 people and caused $ 125 billion in property damage, Hurricane Laura is estimated to spread rapidly after landfall, with the greatest danger more from wind and storm surges than rain.
Lina Hidalgo, CEO of Harris County, which includes Houston, warned of deadly winds and a destructive storm surge after Laura makes landfall late on Wednesday or early Thursday, saying millions of lives were in danger as the storm moved west and targeted the fourth largest city in the United States.
"This storm can really cause unprecedented destruction," Hidalgo said at a news conference on Tuesday. "We really have to say: Prepare for the worst."
Texas comes from a period of high COVID-19 cases and deaths, and there are currently 108,000 active cases of the virus, according to the state Department of Health. More than 41,000 hospital beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients as of Tuesday, including more than 12,000 in Houston and Galveston, state data showed.