Hurricane Laura: First photos of catastrophic storm hitting U.S.

Hurricane Laura: First photos of catastrophic storm hitting U.S.

It rapidly weakened to a Category 2 storm on Thursday morning with maximum sustained winds of 168km/h as it moved north and battered southwest Louisiana, a marshy region particularly prone to storm surge and flooding. Damaging winds extended outward as far as 175 miles (280 kilometers), according to the hurricane center.

Videos on social media showed Laura's winds battering a tall building in Lake Charles, blowing out windows as glass and debris flew to the ground.

More than 580,000 coastal residents were under orders to flee in the largest evacuation since the coronavirus pandemic began and many did, filling hotels and sleeping in cars since officials didn't want to open mass shelters and worsen the spread of COVID-19. "Whole communities were washed away, never to exist again". "Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months", the weather service says.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards tweeted just before landfall that "this is a time for all of us to be praying for the best, while we're prepared for the worst".

Central Time (0600 GMT) as a Category 4 storm, the second strongest on the five-step scale, packing winds of 150 miles per hour (240 kph) in the small town of Cameron, Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

It's centered about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north-northwest of Lake Charles and moving north at 15 mph (24 kph). It said there would likely be widespread flooding from far eastern Texas across Louisiana and Arkansas.

In addition to putting themselves at risk for flash floods, gale-force winds and storm surges, they've also got to worry about lightning strikes. Forecasters had warned the storm surge would be "unsurvivable" and the damage "catastrophic".

"The eyewall of Laura will continue to move inland across southwestern Louisiana during the next several hours", the NHC said in a early Thursday bulletin.

Top winds of 130 mph are now predicted before landfall, pushing water onto more than 450 miles of coast from Texas to Mississippi. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas.

That's according to the website PowerOutage.US, which tracks utility reports. She evacuated from Lake Charles after hearing that it could take a direct hit.

Tony Guillory, president of Calcasieu Parish's police jury, was hunkering down in a Lake Charles government building that was shaking from the storm early Thursday as phones were ringing. It has undergone a remarkable intensification, "and there are no signs it will stop soon", the National Hurricane Center said early Wednesday.

Guillory said he hopes those stranded can be rescued later Thursday, but blocked roads, downed power lines and flooding could complicate the process.

Laura was tied with five other storms for fifth most powerful USA hurricane, behind the 1935's Labor Day storm, 1969's Camille, 1992's Andrew and 2004's Charley, Klotzbach said.

The National Hurricane Center said Laura slammed the coast with winds of 150 mph at 1 a.m. CDT as a Category 4 hurricane near Cameron, a 400-person community about 30 miles east of the Texas border.

It is the seventh named storm to strike the United States this year, setting a new record for landfalls by the end of August. A sudden storm surge knocked over cameras meant to capture the hurricane's effects.

In a radio interview Wednesday night, Edwards talked of the "apocalyptic" language that meteorologists have used for the storm. Buses were stocked with protective equipment and disinfectant, and they would carry fewer passengers to keep people apart, Texas officials said. He noted those structures would be overwhelmed. Hutchinson said the state will have search and rescue teams on standby.

Hundreds of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate ahead of the hurricane, but not everyone did so. It's going to have to drop significantly before they can even run any emergency calls.

But in Cameron Parish, where Laura came ashore, officials said at least 150 people refused pleas to leave and planned to weather the storm in everything from elevated homes to recreational vehicles. "We did everything we could to encourage them to leave". Most of Louisiana's Cameron Parish would be under water at some point, Schott added.

"This surge could penetrate up to 40 miles inland from the immediate coastline, and floodwaters will not fully recede for several days", the hurricane centre said. "We were on top of each other, just holding each other and crying", Agosto said.

Rapid weakening is expected after Laura makes landfall.

Related Articles