The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Laura has officially made landfall in the southeastern state of Louisiana after a long journey through the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.
Forecasters say Laura touched down early Thursday morning in the coastal town of Cameron, Louisiana, located about 86 kilometers south of Lake Charles. The NHC says the storm is carrying maximum sustained winds of 240 kph, making it a Category 4 storm on the five-level scale that measures a hurricane’s potential destructiveness.
The NHC says parts of Louisiana are already experiencing extreme winds, catastrophic storm surges and flash floods as Hurricane Laura rapidly closes in on Lake Charles and the neighboring city of Port Arthur, Texas, at a speed of 24 kph.
Hurricane warnings have been issued along a 446-kilometer stretch between San Luis Pass, Texas, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana.
Officials say heavy rain and fierce winds are expected, but the biggest danger is from the expected 7-meter-high storm surge, which the NHC has described as “unsurvivable,” leaving entire towns underwater and causing floods and power outages farther inland, with conditions that could last for days.
Forecasters say Hurricane Laura will move inland across southwestern Louisiana Thursday morning, then continue northward across the state throughout the day.
Laura is also predicted to soak parts of the South with massive rainfall as it moves inland and weakens.
But forecasters say it could strengthen back to a tropical storm as it moves into the warm Atlantic by early next week and threaten the northeast.
Laura killed 24 people in the Dominican Republic and Haiti when it struck there as a tropical storm earlier this week.