Authorities called for nation’s largest pandemic evacuation after storm turned into hurricane, telling residents of Texas and Louisiana that “actions to protect life and property should be rushed tonight “.
It is expected to hit swathes of both states with fierce winds and heavy flooding, with forecasters warning that up to 3.96 meters of wave-topped storm surge could overwhelm entire neighborhoods.
More than 385,000 residents have been asked to flee the Texas towns of Beaumont, Galveston and Port Arthur, and 200,000 others have been ordered to leave the lower parish of Calcasieu in southwest Louisiana.
A statement released by the National Weather Service said: “There is a life-threatening storm surge danger with large and dangerous waves producing potentially catastrophic damage from the San Luis Pass, Texas to the mouth of the Mississippi River.
“This Laura wave could penetrate up to 30 miles inland from the immediate coast of southwest Louisiana and far southeast Texas.
“Actions to protect life and property should be rushed tonight as water levels start to rise on Wednesday. ”
The National Hurricane Center projected Laura would make landfall with winds of around 115 mph after drawing energy from the warm Gulf waters and becoming a Category 3 hurricane.
They said the build-up might slow down or stop just before coming ashore.
“The waters are warm enough everywhere out there to withstand a major hurricane, Category 3 or even greater,” National Hurricane Center deputy director Ed Rappaport said.
“The waters are very warm where the storm is now and will be warm all the way to the Gulf Coast. ”
Meteorologists have warned that seawater will likely push to land along more than 450 miles of coast from Texas to Mississippi.
Hurricane warnings were issued from the San Luis Pass, TX to Intracoastal City, Louisiana, with storm surge warnings from the Port Arthur, TX flood protection system at the mouth of the Mississippi River.
And Craig Fugate, the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said evacuations could get even bigger if Hurricane LauraThe track of the track veers east or west.
Officials said people should stay with relatives or in hotel rooms to avoid spreading the coronavirus.
In Texas, buses are equipped with protective gear and disinfectants, and can carry fewer passengers to separate people.
Laura passed Cuba after killing nearly two dozen people on the island of Hispaniola, including 20 in Haiti and three in the Dominican Republic, where she cut the power and triggered intense flooding.
Among those killed were a 10-year-old girl whose home was hit by a tree and a mother and young son crushed by a collapsing wall.
He had been feared two hurricanes could be present in the US Gulf for the first time on record, before the other tropical cyclone – Storm Marco – weakened.