Critical Alert

Weather: Hurricane Laura continues to strengthen in the Gulf of Mexico Aug. 26. Landfall likely in Texas/Louisiana border, US, early Aug. 27. 
 

  • Alert Begins: 27 Aug 2020 01:23 AM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 31 Aug 2020 11:59 PM UTC
  • Incident: Hurricane Laura
  • Affected Area(s): Gulf Coast, southeastern, and Mid-Atlantic regions, US; far eastern Canada (map)
  • Projected Landfall (Date): Southwestern La., US (early Aug. 27)
  • Center of Circulation: Approximately 190 km (120 miles) south of Lake Charles, La.
  • Maximum Sustained Winds: 130 knots (240 kph, 150 mph)

 

Summary

 

Hurricane Laura has strengthened into a Category-4 Hurricane the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of southern Louisiana, US, the evening of Aug. 26. As of 1900 CDT, the storm's center of circulation was approximately 190 km (120 miles) south of Lake Charles, La.. Forecast models indicate Laura will make landfall over southwestern Louisiana as a Category-4 Hurricane early Aug. 27. Long-range projections suggest the system weaken rapidly into a tropical storm following landfall and continue tracking northward into northwestern Louisiana and Arkansas through Aug. 27. Laura will continue to weaken into a depression and veer eastward toward the Mid-Atlantic region through Aug. 29, and enter the Atlantic Ocean by early Aug. 30. The storm is forecast to strengthen slightly into a post-tropical cyclone with tropical storm-force winds off the coast of the Mid-Atlantic region before tracking northeastward toward far eastern Canada through Aug. 31. Some uncertainty remains Laura's forecast track and intensity, and changes projection could occur over the coming days.

Government Advisories
As of 1900 CDT Aug. 26, the following advisories have been issued in response to the storm:

  • Hurricane Warning: San Luis Pass, Texas to Intracoastal City, La.
  • Hurricane Watch: East of Intracoastal City to west of Morgan City, La.
  • Tropical Storm Warning: Sargent to San Luis Pass, Texas; east of Intracoastal City, La., to the Mouth of the Mississippi River
  • Storm Surge Warning: Freeport, Texas to the Mouth of the Mississippi River


Authorities will likely issue new warnings or update existing advisories throughout the system's progression in the coming days. Weather warnings could remain active even after the system's immediate threat has diminished, as some areas may still be highly susceptible to rain-induced hazards. 

Evacuations
In response to Hurricane Laura, over 750,000 people across southern Louisiana and southeastern Texas have been urged to evacuate. Authorities in Louisiana have issued evacuation orders for portions of Calcasieu, Terrebone, Cameron, Jefferson, Lafourche, and Plaquemines parishes. Additionally, authorities have issued evacuation orders for portions of southeastern Texas, including Chambers, Galveston, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Newton, and Orange counties. Further evacuations are likely along the Gulf Coast as Hurricane Laura approaches the region. The governors of both Louisiana and Texas have issued states of emergency in anticipation of the system. Additionally, both states have closed down schools and other government offices in anticipation of the storm.

Hazardous Conditions
Hurricane Laura will likely bring heavy rainfall and strong winds areas across the Gulf Coast, Ohio Valley, Tennessee Valley, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast regions of the eastern US, Aug. 26-30. High seas will also occur in coastal areas. Forecast models indicate widespread rainfall totals of 12-25 cm (5-10 inches) are expected across the northwestern Gulf Coast region from western Louisiana to far eastern Texas and northward across much of Arkansas. Locally higher totals of up to 38 cm (15 inches) are possible in the hardest-hit areas. Totals of 5-10 cm (2-4 inches) are expected in central Louisiana to western Tennessee and Kentucky as well as southeastern Missouri. Locally higher totals of 15 cm (6 inches) are possible in the hardest-hit areas of this region. Additionally, heavy rainfall is also expected beginning Aug. 28 in portions of the Tennesse Valley, Ohio Valley, and Mid-Atlantic regions of the US, where 5-10 cm (2-4 inches) is possible.

Sustained heavy rainfall could trigger flooding in low-lying communities near streams, creeks, and rivers, as well as in urban areas with easily overwhelmed stormwater drainage systems. Sites located downstream of large reservoirs could experience flash flooding after relatively short periods of intense rainfall. Rain-induced landslides cannot be discounted in steeply sloped terrains. Flooding could isolate some communities for several days. Prolonged swells and storm surge generated by the system will likely result in coastal flooding as the system tracks close to land. Persistent onshore flow could make it difficult for surge to recede and for water levels to decrease in coastal river catchments. 

Life-threatening storm surge could raise water levels to 3-4.5 meters (10-15 feet) above sea level from Sea Rim State Park to Intracoastal City, La., including Sabine and Calcasieu lakes, near where Hurricane Laura makes landfall. Forecast models indicate storm surge levels of 2.4-3.7 meters (8-12 feet) are possible from Intracoastal City to Morgan City, La., including Vermillion Bay. Port Bolivar to Sea Rim State Park is forecast to receive between 1.8-2.7 meters (6-9 feet). Possible storm surge values of 1.2-2.1 meters (4-7 feet) are possible from Morgan City, La., to the mouth of the Mississippi River. From San Luis Pass to Port Bolivar, Texas as well as Galveston Bay storm surge totals of 0.9-1.5 meters (3-5 feet) are forecast. Additionally, storm surge totals of 0.6-1.2 meters (2-4 feet) are forecast from the mouth of the Mississippi River to Ocean Springs, Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and from Freeport to San Luis Pass, Texas. 

In addition to the heavy rain, flooding, rough surf, and storm surge, Hurricane Laura is also likely to produce hurricane-force wind gusts along the immediate Gulf Coast and tropical-storm-force winds farther inland. Gusts in excess of 115 knots (210 kph, 130 mph) cannot be ruled out, especially in areas near the center of circulation. Widespread and prolonged power outages due to uprooted trees and toppled utility lines are likely. Isolated tornadoes are possible across the Gulf Coast region including Louisiana, far southeastern Texas, Arkansas, and western Mississippi over the coming days.

Transport
In addition to the immediate threat to personal safety, inclement weather associated with the storm is likely to trigger severe ground, air, and maritime transport disruptions are likely across the affected areas, Aug. 26-31. Floodwaters and debris flows may render some bridges, rail networks, or roadways impassable, impacting overland travel in and around affected areas. Areal flooding in urban locations could also result in severe traffic congestion, while strong winds will pose a hazard to high-profile vehicles. Heavy rain and low visibility may trigger flight disruptions at regional airports including those serving New Orleans (MSY), Houston (IAH), and Little Rock (LIT). Disruptions triggered by inclement weather and resultant hazards, such as flooding, could persist well after conditions have improved. If there is severe damage to infrastructure, repair or reconstruction efforts may exacerbate residual disruptions.

 

Advice

 

Activate contingency plans in areas where officials forecast hurricane or tropical storm conditions. Heed all evacuation orders. Use extreme caution in low-lying coastal areas and near streams, creeks, and other waterways due to the high potential for severe flooding and storm surge. Stockpile water, batteries, and other essentials in advance. Charge battery-powered devices when electricity is available; restrict the use of cellular phones to emergencies only. Power down mobile devices when not in use. Keep important documents in waterproof containers. Observe strict food and water precautions, as municipalities could issue boil-water advisories following flooding events. Take precautions against insect- and waterborne diseases in the coming weeks. Keep any necessary medications in a waterproof container.

Plan accordingly for protracted commercial, transport, and logistics disruptions in areas in the path of the storm, especially if vital infrastructure is damaged. Seek updated information on road conditions before driving or routing shipments through areas where flooding has occurred. Confirm flights before checking out of hotels or driving to the airport; clearing passenger backlogs may take several days in some locations.


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