Hurricanes Marco and  Laura to tag team a state already staggering from COVID-19

Gov. expects ‘right hook from Marco and then a left hook from Laura’

People stand in long lines before entering Costo to pick up supplies as they prepare for Hurricane Marco and Tropical Storm Laura on August 23, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Both storms are expected to make landfall along the Louisiana coast within days of each other. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Gov. John Bel Edwards warned residents across the southern half of the state Sunday to get prepared for an unprecedented “one, two punch” from separate hurricanes spinning toward the Gulf Coast. As the governor spoke Sunday evening, wind gusts from Hurricane Marco, a Category 1 storm, were already being felt in the coastal areas near the mouth of the Mississippi River.  Tropical Storm Laura was still moving across Cuba and was expected to soon hit the warmer than average temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, strengthen into a hurricane and make a Louisiana landfall later in the week as a strong Category 2.

The boxing metaphors the governor used suggested power punches, not glancing blows.  “We’re going to get basically a right hook from Marco and then a left hook from Laura,” Edwards said.

Benjamin Schott, the meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service office in New Orleans, describing “a very odd meteorological situation,”  said that Marco was expected to be moving out of Louisiana and into Texas Tuesday evening and Louisiana residents would begin feeling the effects of Laura 12-18 hours later.

At a press conference earlier in the day, Schott said in the 1950s there was a moment where storms moving in opposite directions were hitting Texas and Florida at the same time, but it is “unprecedented,” Schott said for two storms to hit the same state less than 48 hours apart.

The one-two punch that is forecast is more than just an oddity.  Edwards and Schott described it as a complication.

Electric utility trucks can’t be deployed if the wind is 35 mph or above, Edwards said. If Marco knocks out power and Laura comes fast on its heels, then it’s unlikely that crews sent out to restore power will have much time to get the lights back on before the second storm.  Also, Edwards said, helicopter pilots won’t have much time to fly search and rescue missions if there’s little time between Marco’s winds and Laura’s.

Schott said two hurricanes back-to-back could mean winds pushing water toward the shoreline for days on end, and if Marco causes flooding, the water may not have had a chance to recede before Laura dumps more water.

For all those reasons, Gov. Edwards said Sunday, residents riding out the storm should prepare for a longer ride and a longer aftermath and should not have the expectation power crews or rescue teams will be able to reach them immediately. “The first 72 hours are on you,” he said.

The continued prevalence of the new coronavirus will complicate how or if residents who want to can evacuate, and it will also mean that the state will only open large shelters as “a last resort.” Gov. Edwards said that the state is hoping the the federal government will allow folks seeking shelter to be placed in hotel rooms.

The governor said 1,200 new cases and 59 new deaths were recorded Saturday and Sunday.

Edwards recommended residents to shelter only with the people in their household if possible, but if it isn’t to use caution in interacting with other people.  He recommended the continued use of hand sanitizer, soap and water and face masks. “COVID-19 is prevalent throughout our state,” Edwards said. “The virus is not concerned that we have hurricanes coming.  It’s not going to take any time off and neither can we.”