Critical Alert

Weather: Tropical Storm Laura to make landfall in southeastern Cuba, on Aug. 23 before entering Gulf of Mexico and strengthening into a hurricane.

  • Alert Begins: 23 Aug 2020 10:05 PM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 28 Aug 2020 11:59 PM UTC
  • Incident: Tropical Storm Laura
  • Affected Area(s): Caribbean and southeastern US (map)
  • Projected Landfall (Date): Santiago de Cuba state, Cuba (Aug. 23), Pinar del Rio state, Cuba (late Aug. 24), western Louisiana or southeastern Texas, US (Aug. 26 or Aug. 27)
  • Center of Circulation: Approximately 88 km (55 miles) southeast of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
  • Maximum Sustained Winds: 50 knots (90 kph, 60 mph)

 

Summary

Tropical Storm Laura is tracking in the Gulf of Gonave after tracking over Hispaniola, Aug. 23. As of 1700 EDT, the storm's center of circulation was approximately 88 km (55 miles) southeast of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. Laura is forecast to make a subsequent landfall over Santiago de Cuba state, Cuba in the coming hours before tracking off the western coast of the country. Laura may make another landfall in Pinar del Rio state, Cuba, late Aug. 24. Afterward, Laura will enter the Gulf of Mexico. As Laura reaches the open, warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico, it will reach an environment conducive to rapid strengthening and is forecast to become a hurricane. Long-range projections indicate there will be a landfall in the Gulf Coast region of the US on Aug. 26 or Aug. 27. At this time, it is most likely to occur in western Louisiana or southeastern Texas. However, the guidance is highly varied and the forecast is low confidence. Significant uncertainty remains in the track and intensity forecast, and changes may occur in the coming days, especially with regard to potential impacts in the United States.

Government Advisories
As of 1700 EDT Aug. 23, the following advisories have been issued in response to the storm:

 

  • Tropical Storm Warning: the entire coast of Haiti, Inagua, the Ragged Islands in the southeastern Bahamas, Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac, as well as the Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Las Tunas, Holguin, Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, Granma, Ciego De Avila, Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, Matanzas, Mayabeque, La Habana, Artemisa, Pinar del Rio, and the Isle of Youth

 

  • Tropical Storm Watch: theFlorida Keys from Craig Key to Key West and the Dry Tortugas

 


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. So far due to Laura, at least 1,050 residents in the Caribbean have been forced to evacuate. Further localized evacuations are possible if weather conditions prove particularly hazardous.

Hazardous Conditions
Tropical Storm Laura will likely bring heavy rainfall, strong winds, and rough seas to coastal areas across the Caribbean and southern Florida, US through Aug. 25, and the Gulf Coast of the US, Aug. 26-28. Forecast models indicate 10-20 cm (4-8 inches) of rain are likely in Haiti and Cuba, with locally higher totals of up to 30 cm (12 inches) possible in higher elevations. Lower amounts of 2.5-7.5 cm (1-3 inches) are forecast over the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos, southeast Bahamas, Florida Keys, and Jamaica. Along the Gulf Coast region of the US, widespread rainfall totals of 10-25 cm (4-10 inches) are expected near where Laura makes landfall.

Sustained heavy rainfall could trigger flooding in low-lying communities near streams, creeks, and rivers, as well as in urban areas with easily overwhelmed or a lack of 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.

In addition to the heavy rain, flooding, rough surf, and storm surge, Tropical Storm Laura could produce damaging wind gusts. Widespread and prolonged power outages due to uprooted trees and toppled utility lines are possible.

Transport
In addition to the immediate threat to personal safety, inclement weather associated with the storm could trigger localized business, transport, and utility disruptions. 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. 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 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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