Laura was downgraded to a tropical storm Thursday afternoon, after making landfall in Louisiana near the Texas border overnight as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph.
That made Laura the most intense hurricane to make landfall in Louisiana in 164 years, since what was called the Last Island Storm in 1856. It is also tied for the strongest hurricane on record to ever hit the state. The storm surge topped 10 feet in parts of western Louisiana, far less than the maximum prediction of 15-20 feet. The highest water levels were seen to the right of the storm's center, over a wildlife refuge area, sparing the more densely populated areas in the region.
East Texas was able to avoid the worst of the storm, which was expected to weaken to a tropical depression overnight. At least six deaths in Louisiana have been attributed to Laura, including a 14-year-old girl from Vernon Parish.
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Louisiana official fears Laura will bring "the same damage" as Katrina
Scott Trahan, an official in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, told the "TODAY" show Thursday morning that it’s “still blowing, still raining” hours after Hurricane Laura hit the Gulf Coast as a Category 4 storm.
“I’m afraid we’re going to have the same damage we had last time,” he said, referring to Hurricane Katrina. Trahan said Laura brings back memories of that 2005 Category 5 hurricane.
"A few houses might make it, most of them will probably be gone," Trahan said.
More than 450,000 households lose power in Louisiana and Texas
The number of households reported without power in Louisiana and Texas continued to grow Thursday morning.
More than 450,000 were without power after Hurricane Laura made landfall with extremely high winds.
More than 380,000 had no power in Louisiana and over 90,000 in Texas as of 6:30 a.m. (7:30 a.m. ET), according to PowerOutage.us, a project created to track, record, and aggregate power outages across the U.S.
Video shows roof coming out of a hotel in Lake Charles
Video provided by NBC Little Rock affiliate KARK shows the storm's powerful winds blowing off a roof in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
'Absolutely catastrophic': American Red Cross volunteers on hand to help
As Hurricane Laura made landfall on the Gulf Coast and tore inland Thursday morning, hundreds of American Red Cross volunteers stood ready to help, the organization's spokesperson said.
The Red Cross has more than 600 volunteers deployed up and down the Gulf Coast. It has also partnered with local organizations to help with shelters, and needed cots, blankets and personal protective equipment for displaced residents coping with a major hurricane amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“This storm is everything they said it would be, absolutely catastrophic," MaryJane Mudd, a spokesperson for the organization, told MSNBC.
Some Lake Charles residents who didn't evacuate now asking for help
LAKE CHARLES, La. — An official in a southwestern Louisiana parish says some people who did not evacuate are now requesting assistance.
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.
“People are calling the building but there ain’t no way to get to them,” he said over the phone.
Guillory said he hopes those stranded can be rescued later Thursday, but blocked roads, downed power lines and flooding could complicate the process.
Hurricane downgraded to Category 2
Hurricane Laura was downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane as it moved inland Thursday morning with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
According to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane scale provided by the center, a Category 2 storm is defined by "extremely dangerous winds" that will cause extensive damage while a Category 3 hurricane's winds may cause “devastating damage.”
Laura made a landfall as a Category 4 storm on the southwestern Louisiana coast early Thursday.
Laura strongest hurricane to make landfall in Louisiana in 164 years
When Laura made landfall with 150 mph winds early Thurday, it became the strongest hurricane to hit Louisiana in 164 years, NBC meteorologist Bill Karins said.
Its winds were the strongest of any hurricane making landfall in the state since the Last Island Storm in 1856, according to Karins.
"Laura is also now tied for the most intense hurricane landfall on record in the state of Louisiana and ranks as one of the most powerful hurricane landfalls in U.S. history," he added.
Threat of tornadoes in parts of Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi
There is a threat of possible tornadoes on Thursday over parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, and western Mississippi as Hurricane Laura moves inland, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center said the greatest short-term tornado threat is from Vermilion Parish to St. Mary Parish, northward to Rapides Parish in Louisiana and far southwest Mississippi.
Tornado warnings have been issued in the cities of Franklin, Jeanerette and Baldwin, Louisiana, until 4:45 a.m. CT (5:45 ET).
Laura now category 3 hurricane, rapid weakening expected
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) downgraded Laura to a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of near 120 mph early on Thursday.
"Rapid weakening is forecast, and Laura is expected to become a tropical storm later on Thursday," the center said in its latest update at 4 a.m. (5 a.m. ET).
The center said the center of the hurricane is expected to move over Arkansas into the evening, the mid-Mississippi Valley on Friday and the mid-Atlantic states on Saturday.