Hurricane Laura is rapidly intensifying into a Category 3 storm and could cause large scale flooding and damage to parts of eastern Texas and Louisiana.
As the hurricane is on track to be a Category 4 one as of August 26, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) warned local residents to 'rush' to complete preparations.
According to reports
, the hurricane can grown up to 20 feet when it reaches the Gulf Coast on August 26 night and early August 27, NHC said in its latest bulletin.Here's everything we know about it so far:
Laura became the fourth hurricane of 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. It is expected to intensify over the Gulf of Mexico and become a major hurricane prior to striking the upper Texas or southwest Louisiana coasts. More than 3,85,000 residents were ordered to evacuate in Texas and another 2,00,000 in Louisiana.
In a series of tweets, NHC had warned that Laura was expected to bring "life-threatening hazards" and an "unsurvivable storm surge" to parts of the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. It also said that well-built homes could suffer major damage, while trees could be uprooted and electricity and water would be unavailable for days or even weeks
The governors of Texas and Louisiana declared disasters in advance of the storms.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott preemptively declared a state disaster for 23 counties ahead of tropical storms Marco and Laura. The declaration puts resources and personnel on standby. Abbott also asked for a federal emergency declaration for those counties, which was approved.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards told The Weather Channel he hopes his state's residents don't let their guard down just because Hurricane Marco was not as strong as expected.
Edwards declared a state of emergency for Louisiana on August 21 night and requested a federal emergency declaration on August 22. President Donald Trump approved Edwards's request for help.
Officials stressed that now is when people should be preparing and leaving if told to do so.
Houstonians were urged to stay off roads for people being evacuated from areas that are expected to be hit by Hurricane Laura. Tropical storm warnings extend into the rest of the Houston metro area and extend east into south-central and southeast Louisiana, including the city of Lafayette. This means tropical storm conditions are expected within the next 36 hours.
Galveston, which sits on a barrier island on the Texas Gulf Coast, issued a mandatory evacuation order on August 25 and urged residents to leave as soon as possible.
"Frankly there's not that many places for people to go to," Dick Gremillion, director of homeland security and emergency preparedness for Calcasieu Parish, told the local media. "In our traditional shelters, we've lost two-thirds of capacity. It has been a difficult time rolling COVID into hurricane preparations."
City of Galveston Mayor Pro Tem Craig Brown signed the evacuation order, instructing residents to begin leaving the island for safety after overnight models shifted Laura's track westward. Galveston residents should secure loose items on their property and leave the island with all family members and pets.
It's estimated that more than two million people evacuated from their homes at the time. Many were stuck in traffic nightmares for several hours without food, water and low on fuel.
Evacuees are hoping to avoid repeat of Hurricane Rita traffic nightmare. Hurricane Rita hit in 2005 not long after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. People fled the area and saw some of the worst traffic the region had ever seen.
Local officials are hoping to avoid such a situation with voluntary evacuations broken down by zip zones. They are asking residents to wait until their zones are called before leaving to avoid more traffic disasters.
Many school districts announced they would be closed for the rest of the week. Most businesses and other facilities will be closed from August 26 to August 28.
Ahead of Hurricane Laura's arrival, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued voluntary evacuations effective immediately for people who live in Zones A and B in Harris County. The Harris County Toll Road Authority announced on August 25 it has waived fees. Fort Bend County soon followed suit.With inputs from PTI