Forecasters predict Hurricane Laura will reach Category 4 status shortly before it strikes Southwest Louisiana early Thursday.
As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, Laura was in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico traveling toward the southwestern Louisiana coast at about 17 mph. The storm emerged as a Category 3 overnight and is expected to strike Cameron Parish early Thursday as a Category 4 with sustained winds of 145 mph and gusts of 170 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
“I think the damage from this will be unfortunately devastating,” NWS Meteorologist Ben Schott said. “To think that there will be a wall of water 2 stories high coming ashore is very difficult to imagine.”
Although the eye of the storm is expected to pass over Cameron Parish, Schott warned that other coastal communities and parts of South Louisiana will experience “life-threatening” storm surge, winds and flooding.
“People in South Louisiana need to understand that the wind threat here is serious,” Schott said.
Dangerous winds will extend as far as Alexandria, and “life-threatening storm surge” will extend as far east as Morgan City, he said.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said Laura is expected to eclipse 2005’s Hurricane Rita in terms of strength. Rita was a Category 3 when it made landfall in Cameron Parish.
“Our state hasn’t seen a storm like this in decades,” Edwards said.
During his 11:30 a.m. press conference, the governor said residents who live in areas under evacuation should already be leaving. “Whether it’s mandatory or voluntary, we need you evacuating now,” he said.