Hurricane Laura intensified to a Category 3 storm in the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to make a destructive landfall — potentially as a Cat 4 — by early Thursday morning.
A hurricane warning has been issued for parts of Texas and the Louisiana coastline, according to the National Hurricane Center, which predicted potentially catastrophic storm surge, extreme winds and flash flooding along the northwest Gulf Coast tonight.
The storm had sustained winds of nearly 115 miles per hour as it powered north through the Gulf of Mexico, the National Hurricane Center said, and was expected to intensify to Category 4 strength later in the day, according to The New York Times.
Laura is set to make landfall early on Thursday morning, but meteorologists said powerful gusts of wind and heavy rains would arrive much sooner, as early as Wednesday afternoon, the newspaper reported.
The hurricane was approaching the United States on the anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in Texas on Aug. 25, 2017.
Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana compared the pending storm to Hurricane Rita, according to the New York Times, which caused an estimated $25.2 billion in damage when it struck in 2005.
About 1.5 million people are under some type of evacuation order across parts of Texas and Louisiana, according to CNN. In the Houston area, road tolls have been waived to help people leaving the area, Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday.
As Hurricane Laura approaches, officials are urging residents not to drop their guard against the coronavirus.
“Remember, just because a hurricane is coming to Texas, does not mean that Covid-19 either has or is going to leave Texas,” Gov. Greg Abbott said at a briefing on Tuesday, according to the Times. Abbott reminded residents to maintain social distance and to wear face masks.
Laura is responsible for nine deaths in the Caribbean, including a 7-year-old boy and his mother, CNN reported.
Five people were killed in Haiti, including a 10-year-old girl, the country's civil protection agency said.