Louisianans should “prepare for the worst and pray for the best,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a Tuesday press conference regarding Hurricane Laura’s approach toward the coastal areas in and around Cameron Parish.
As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, Laura was in the central Gulf of Mexico traveling northwest at about 17 mph. Though still a Category 1, the storm was continuing to build strength and is expected to reach Category 3 status as it strikes Cameron Parish near the Texas border by 1 a.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
“Laura is shaping up to look a lot like Rita did 15 years ago,” the governor said.
Rita, the most intense tropical cyclone on record in the Gulf of Mexico, reached Category 5 status but made landfall as a Category 3 storm in Johnson’s Bayou in Cameron Parish. It caused catastrophic damage and loss of life in Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas.
NWS Meteorologist Ben Schott said Laura is expected to cause “devastating to catastrophic damage” in areas up to 30 miles inland.
Both Cameron and Calcasieu parishes are under mandatory evacuation orders. Many other coastal and low-lying communities remained under voluntary evacuation orders as of Tuesday evening. See a complete list of evacuation orders in Louisiana.
The state Department of Transportation and Development has deployed more than 20 coach buses and 40 school buses on standby to assist with evacuations in Southwest Louisiana, DOTD Secretary Shaun Wilson said.
The governor stressed that residents in those areas should already be evacuating and should not wait to see tomorrow’s forecast to decide whether to leave. It is likely that poor weather will prevent any evacuations by Wednesday afternoon.
“The weather is going to degrade pretty quickly after lunch tomorrow,” Edwards said.