Hurricane Laura is a dangerous Category 3 storm and is due to strengthen to Category 4 before slamming into the US south coast later Wednesday, forecasters said, warning residents of Texas and Louisiana of floods and high winds.
This RAMMB/NOAA satellite image shows Hurricane Laura moving Northwestern in the Gulf of Mexico towards Louisiana at 11:40 UTC on August 26, 2020. (Photo: AFP)
The hurricane could bring "potentially catastrophic storm surges, extreme winds and flash flooding," to the Gulf Coast, the National Hurricane Center said, instructing locals to rush to complete preparations to protect themselves.
"Laura is a dangerous Category 3 hurricane... and is forecast to continue strengthening into a Category 4 hurricane later today," it said.
With maximum sustained winds currently of 115 mile (185 kilometers) per hour, the hurricane could trigger a storm surge raising water levels by several feet and affecting areas as much as 30 miles inland.
"We need to be prepared," Texas governor Greg Abbott said Tuesday, as the state continues to struggle with the coronavirus pandemic.
Compared to Category 3 Hurricane Harvey, which caused catastrophic flooding and killed 68 people in 2017, "this is going to be more of a wind event," the governor said.
Laura also threatens the major oil refining centers of Lake Charles, Louisiana and Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas, located near the coast.
Evacuations have been underway in areas most at risk.
Several emergency shelters opened in Texas, with health precautions in place to fight the spread of the virus outbreak.
"COVID-19 is going to be in Texas throughout the course of the hurricane," Abbott said, calling on families who can afford it to take refuge in hotels or motels so they "can be isolated from others."