The storm system known as Laura became a Category 1 hurricane Tuesday in the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to intensify as it hits warmer water, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in its latest forecast.
“Laura is expected to be a major hurricane at landfall,” said the center.
Laura’s maximum sustained winds are 120 kilometers per hour, but the storm could become a Category 3 “major” hurricane before making landfall, with winds of 185 kilometers per hour. Major hurricanes are those with winds above 177 kilometers per hour.
Government forecasters say Laura is expected to approach Texas and southwest Louisiana Wednesday evening, and continue moving inland Thursday.
Hurricane and storm surge warnings are in effect for the northwestern Gulf coast.
The storm could also bring up to 30 centimeters of rain to some parts of Louisiana and Texas, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Laura is blamed for at least 11 deaths in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where it caused flooding Monday evening and knocked out power. The storm also took out power to hundreds of thousands of customers in Puerto Rico.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency on Friday, August 21, in anticipation of Laura and Tropical Storm Marco, which made landfall in Texas Monday, while Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a state disaster declaration on Sunday. Both states receive federal funding to help with evacuations, search and rescue and mass sheltering.
After making landfall, Marco began weakening almost immediately. It is now a post-tropical system and forecast to dissipate by early Wednesday.