Warning Alert

Weather: Laura strengthens into hurricane as it enters Gulf of Mexico, Aug. 25. Landfall likely in Texas or Louisiana, US, Aug. 27. 

  • Alert Begins: 25 Aug 2020 11:32 PM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 30 Aug 2020 11:59 PM UTC
  • Incident: Hurricane Laura
  • Affected Area(s): Gulf Coast, Tennessee Valley, Ohio Valley, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast regions, US (map)
  • Projected Landfall (Date): Southeastern Texas or southwestern Louisiana, US (late Aug. 26 or early Aug. 27)
  • Center of Circulation: Approximately 516 km (320 miles) south-southeast of Boothville-Venice, Louisiana
  • Maximum Sustained Winds: 70 knots (130 kph, 80 mph)

 

Summary

 

Laura has strengthened into a hurricane after entering the Gulf of Mexico following landfall in northwestern Cuba on Aug. 25. As of 1600 CDT, the storm's center of circulation was approximately 516 km (320 miles) south-southeast of Boothville-Venice, Louisiana. As Hurricane Laura progresses in the open, warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico, it will travel in an environment conducive to rapid strengthening and possibly reach Category 3 hurricane strength or higher on Aug. 26. Forecast models indicate there will be a landfall in the Gulf Coast region of the US - most likely in southeastern Texas or southwestern Louisiana - late Aug. 26 or early Aug. 27. Following this landfall, long-range projections have the system tracking northward and weakening to a tropical storm before veering eastward and losing strength over the eastern US. The system is forecast to enter the Atlantic Ocean late Aug. 29 or early Aug. 30 where it may strengthen to a post-tropical cyclone with tropical storm-force winds off the coast of the Mid-Atlantic region. However, the guidance is highly varied, and there is low confidence in the forecast; the track and intensity forecast is subject to changes over the coming days.

Government Advisories
As of 1600 CDT Aug. 25, the following advisories have been issued in response to the storm:

  • Hurricane Warning: San Luis Pass, Texas to Intracoastal City, Louisiana
  • Hurricane Watch: East of Intracoastal City, Louisiana to west of Morgan City, Louisiana
  • Tropical Storm Warning: Sargent, Texas to San Luis Pass, Texas; east of Intracoastal City, Louisiana to the Mouth of the Mississippi River
  • Storm Surge Warning: San Luis Pass, Texas to the Mouth of the Mississippi River
  • Storm Surge Watch: Freeport, Texas to San Luis Pass, Texas; Mouth of the Mississippi River to Ocean Springs, Mississippi; Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and Lake Borgne


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, authorities in Louisiana have issued mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders for portions of Calcasieu, Terrebone, Cameron, Jefferson, Lafourche, and Plaquemines parishes. Additionally, authorities are evacuating at least 300,000 people in eastern Texas, including Brazoria, Jefferson, Orange, Galveston, Chambers, and Harris 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.

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 US, Aug. 26-30. High seas will also occur in coastal areas. Forecast models indicate widespread rainfall totals of 15-25 cm (6-10 inches) are expected in southeastern Texas and western Louisiana, as well as in central and southern Arkansas. Locally higher totals of up to 40 cm (16 inches) are possible in the hardest-hit areas. Totals of 7.5-15 cm (3-6 inches) are expected in east-central Texas, central Louisiana, western Tennessee, Kentucky, and southeastern Missouri. Heavy rainfall is also expected beginning Aug. 29 in portions of the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic regions of the US.

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 2.75-4 meters (9-13 feet) above sea level in southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana near where Hurricane Laura makes landfall. Storm surges could raise water levels to 1.2-2.75 meters (4-9 feet) farther west into Texas toward Galveston, as well as farther east in Louisiana.

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 100 knots (185 kph, 115 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 over the coming days as Hurricane Laura approaches landfall.

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. 26-30. 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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