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.
Download the NBC News app for latest updates on Hurricane Laura.
Floating casino rams into major interstate in Louisiana
A floating casino on the Calcasieu River in Louisiana broke loose from its moorings and rammed into the Interstate 10 bridge on Thursday.
The Lake Charles Isle of Capri Casino Barge came loose and drifted along the river before getting caught against one of the supports under the I-10, the Louisiana State Police confirmed to NBC News.
No injuries had been reported as of 2 p.m. ET.
The I-10 interstate connects Houston to New Orleans. The bridge can be avoided by taking a bypass along interstate 210.
Louisiana state law requires that all casinos be located on the water. However, the casino barges are allowed to remain docked.
The casino boat crash occurred mere miles away from the chemical plant fire at Westlake, where burning of chemical gas has forced nearby residents to shelter in place.
Hurricane Laura downgraded to tropical storm
Hurricane Laura was downgraded again Thursday to a tropical storm, with wind speeds decreasing to 70 mph as it moved farther inland.
The storm, which made landfall early Thursday at maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, still has the potential for damaging winds as it moves over central and northern Louisiana, according to the National Weather Service. Flooding rainfall also remains a risk as the storm moves.
Hurricane Laura hit the Gulf Coast overnight at a Category 4 but was downgraded earlier in the day to a Category 1, as it left the warm waters into the southern region.
The agency said Thursday afternoon that it would stop hourly updates as the storm's intensity swiftly dwindles.
Lake Charles chemical fire puts residents on lockdown
Louisiana State Police have issued a shelter in place advisory after a chemical fire erupted at a manufacturing plant in Westlake. The facility is near Lake Charles, where Hurricane Laura has caused significant damage.
The fire at BioLab was burning chlorine gas, producing thick clouds of smoke that filled the sky. No injuries or deaths have been reported so far.
Gov. John Bel Edwards tweeted that residents should shelter in place, lock their doors, close their windows and turn off their air conditioners until further notice.
The chemical fire comes after the Category 4 storm ripped through Southwest Louisiana with 150 mph winds. Officials are still surveying the extent of the damage brought by the storm.
2 more killed by fallen in trees in Louisiana
Hurricane Laura's death toll rose to three Thursday afternoon after officials reported two more people who were killed by fallen trees in Louisiana.
One man died in Acadia Parish and another in Jackson Parish after trees fell on their homes, according to the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness.
A teenage girl was previously reported to have died under similar circumstances in Vernon Parish.
Hurricanes have gotten more destructive. Here's why.
A destructive storm is rising from warm waters. Again.
America and the world are getting more frequent and bigger multibillion dollar tropical catastrophes like Hurricane Laura, which is menacing the U.S. Gulf Coast, because of a combination of increased coastal development, natural climate cycles, reductions in air pollution and man-made climate change, experts say.
The list of recent whoppers keeps growing: Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence, Michael, Dorian. And hurricane experts have no doubt that Laura will be right there with them.
Ready the full story here.
Photos: Surveying the damage
Laura prompts soul searching in Houston
HOUSTON — For a few nerve-wracking days, it appeared that Houston’s worst nightmare might come true: a powerful Category 4 hurricane barreling toward the nation’s fourth largest city — in the midst of a deadly pandemic, no less.
For years, experts have warned that such a storm would devastate the city, destroying tens of thousands of homes, knocking out power for weeks or months, and unleashing an unprecedented environmental disaster in the nation’s petrochemical capital.
Houston officials breathed a sigh of relief after Hurricane Laura turned east. Now they’re calling for federal action.
At a news conference Wednesday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Laura should be a wake-up call.
He and other local officials are calling on Congress to allocate $30 billion to build a series of coastal barriers — an idea known locally as “the Ike Dike,” in honor of the 2008 hurricane that fell well short of that worst-case scenario, but still rocked the region.
The goal of the project is to shield the Houston region from the worst effects of a massive hurricane, saving lives and preventing a potential economic catastrophe in Texas.
“Quite frankly, we need it yesterday,” Turner said. “We’re running out of lives, so to speak.”
Eastern Texas resident relieved storm damage wasn't as bad as expected
Prepared for the worst, residents of eastern Texas woke Thursday morning to find storm damage not as severe as expected.
Tony Noah — a resident of Orange, Texas, who did not evacuate — spent the morning cutting and clearing trees from his yard. He said there are lots of fences and trees down, as well as shingles ripped off of roofs in his neighbored.
But the overall situation on Thursday morning "was a lot better than expected," Noah said in an interview with MSNBC: "We thought there was going to be substantial damage, but from what we could ascertain it wasn’t that bad.”
The storm ripped through Orange a little past midnight, continuing inland as a downgraded Category 1 hurricane.
“It felt like freight train coming through the neighborhood," Noah said. "It was a roar like I’ve never heard before. I knew it was here.”
Photos: Path of destruction in Lake Charles
Louisiana gov says state might need to move thousands of residents out of their homes
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday his state might need to move thousands of residents out of their homes because of structural damage from Hurricane Laura.
In an interview with Stephanie Ruhle on MSNBC, the governor added that Louisianans would be placed in non-congregate sheltering — such as hotels and motels — to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We’ve got fewer people in the hospital with COVID now than we’ve had in the last couple of months, but we’ve had the most cases per capita in the country. We have significant community spread, and we are very mindful that this storm is gonna complicate our efforts to get the virus under control,” Edwards said.
The governor also confirmed the first reported death from Hurricane Laura, that of a 14-year-old girl in Leesville, Louisiana, who died after a tree fell on her home.
“I suspect that won’t be the last, although I pray that we don’t have anymore,” he said.
More than 530,000 without power in Texas and Louisiana
The number of households without power in Louisiana and Texas on Thursday continues to grow.
More than 423,000 were without power in Louisiana as of 8:30 a.m. ET, according to PowerOutage.us, a project created to track, record, and aggregate power outages across the U.S.
The numbers grew by the tens of thousands from earlier in the morning, after Hurricane Laura made landfall overnight as a Category 4 storm with extremely high winds and travels inland as a Category 2.
In eastern Texas, more than 107,000 households were without power as of 8:30 a.m.
Meteorology student documents devastation in Lake Charles, La.
Heavy winds from Hurricane Laura sent a street sign spinning in Lake Charles early Thursday morning, as captured on video by Levi Newell, a 20-year-old meteorology student from Texas who came to Lake Charles to witness the effects of the storm.
Multiple social media posts showed buildings being damaged all over Lake Charles. Among them the Capital One Tower, a major financial building seriously damaged by the hurricane. "There has been some very bad damage to the tower," Newell told NBC News, adding that roofs and pieces of drywall had been blowing through downtown Lake Charles.
“Lake Charles will look very different when the sun rises. Absolute devastation” Newell tweeted.
Louisiana officials report first death from Hurricane Laura
Louisiana officials announced the first reported death from Hurricane Laura on Thursday.
A teenage girl was killed when a tree fell on a home in Vernon Parish, 75 miles north of Lake Charles, the Louisiana Emergency Preparedness confirmed to NBC News.
Officials did not specify when the teenager was struck.
Photos: Flooding and damage in Texas
Hurricane Laura downgraded to a Category 2 after making landfall
Hurricane Laura, which made landfall as a Category 4 near Cameron, Louisiana, early Thursday morning, has been downgraded to a Category 2 with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, according to an update from the National Hurricane Center.
It is located 20 miles north of Fort Polk, Louisiana, and is moving north at 15 mph. Much of the state is dealing with heavy rain and winds, and a tornado watch is in effect until 9 a.m. local time. Eleven million people are under flash flood watches from Louisiana up through western Kentucky.
Laura is being felt across a swath of the state, with hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 60 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extending outward up to 175 miles.
Forecasters say that Laura will continue to weaken to a tropical storm Thursday as it continues to move inland. By Friday, it is expected to be a tropical depression and could push heavy rain and strong winds into portions of the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys. The Mid-Atlantic and Northeast will see some rain on Saturday as Laura exits off the coast.
Red Cross spokesperson: More than 600 volunteers were sent for 'catastrophic' hurricane
Storm surge doesn’t appear to be as high as forecast
The storm surge from Laura that hit parts of Louisiana and Texas was brutal — but not as bad as expected.
The highest storm surge seen so far was just over 11 feet at the Calcasieu Pass tide gauge — a massive amount of water, but lower than the Wednesday prediction from the National Hurricane Center of 15 to 20 feet.
There are a few reasons the peak predications of the surge didn’t materialize.
First, a 15-20 foot surge was the worst-case scenario prediction, but it wasn’t guaranteed to get that high.
Laura also made landfall after high tide, when the water was starting to recede. This likely prevented the surge from growing as much as it could've.
And forecasters believe Laura’s slight shift east before landfall might have fended off the worst possibilities. The new path it took could mean water wasn’t pushed straight up the river and into Lake Charles.
Lastly, it might be too soon to know the extend of the surge, since the stormed landed in the middle of the night, amid widespread power outages and almost entirely evacuated neighborhoods. We may never fully know the extent of the surge. The eastward shift in the track pushed the highest surge potential into a mostly uninhabited part of the Louisiana coast with few sensors for direct measurement. It’s also early and the storm still ongoing.
Laura is going to be a 'real troublemaker' as it moves north
Hurricane Laura is going to be "a real troublemaker" as it moves north, Al Roker said on "TODAY" on Thursday morning.
Even as a Category 2 storm, the hurricane's winds are still extremely powerful, which could bring down power lines and trees, Roker said.
He also said power outages may extend north into the Ohio River Valley, and a tornado watch is in effect from central Louisiana to southeastern Texas.
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.
Flash flooding remains a threat as Hurricane Laura moves inland
Flash flood warnings continued through early Thursday morning after Hurricane Laura made landfall and heavy winds swept across parts of Louisiana, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Video and photos on social media showed torrents of rain flying sideways and streets covered with water closer to the coast.
The center said the storm is expected to produce 6 to 12 inches of rain, with isolated totals of 18 inches, across portions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas through Friday, which could lead to widespread flash and urban flooding.
Laura is also expected to bring rainfall to much of Arkansas, mid-Mississippi, portions of the Tennessee Valley, Lower Ohio Valley, the central Appalachians and the Mid-Atlantic states into Saturday.
Hundreds of thousands left without power across Louisiana and Texas
More than 350,000 households in Louisiana and Texas were without power early Thursday after Hurricane Laura made landfall packing extremely high winds.
According to PowerOutage.us, a project created to track, record, and aggregate power outages across the country, more than 280,000 are without power in Louisiana and more than 70,000 are without power in Texas as of 4 a.m. CT (5 a.m. ET).
Extreme winds generated by Hurricane Laura are expected to bring catastrophic wind damage near the storm's eye, the National Hurricane Center said.
Hurricane-force winds and damaging wind gusts are also expected to spread well inland into portions of eastern Texas and western Louisiana Thursday morning.
'TAKE COVER NOW!': Hurricane Center issues dire warning amid extremely high winds
The National Hurricane Center said the eyewall of Hurricane Laura will continue to move inland across southwestern Louisiana for the next several hours, with continuing catastrophic storm surge, extreme winds and flash flooding.
"TAKE COVER NOW!" the center warned in it latest update. "Treat these imminent extreme winds as if a tornado was approaching and move immediately to the safe room in your shelter."
The safest place to be is in a reinforced interior room away from windows, the statement added.
Hurricane Laura already making history in Louisiana
First signs of damage in Lake Charles, Louisiana
Laura has made landfall — what's next?
Louisiana governor closes part of Interstate 10
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state is closing Interstate 10 from around the Atchafalaya Bridge outside of Lafayette all the way into part of Texas, because several stretches within that area are expected to flood.
In a radio interview Wednesday night, Edwards talked of the “apocalyptic” language that meteorologists have used for the storm. “The language I’ve heard from the National Weather Service I’ve never heard before ... They’re sending the strongest possible message about how serious this storm is,” he said.
He talked specifically about concerns in Cameron Parish.
“When people built back after Rita, they routinely built back to 15 feet,” Edwards said. He noted those structures would be overwhelmed.
Edwards said search and rescue efforts will begin Thursday as soon as it’s safe enough for officials to go out into floodwaters.
The scene in Lake Charles, Louisiana
Houston area ready to help Louisiana
The top government official in Harris County, Texas, said that while the Houston area appeared to escaped relatively unscathed by Hurricane Laura, they county stands ready to help Louisiana, where the massive storm made landfall early Thursday.
"Now that we are watching with horror how it is impacting our neighbors to the east, our approach turns to aid," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a phone interview with MSNBC early Thursday.
Hidalgo said first responders from all over the country are in the county to assist with the storm, and they are ready to provide any assistance needed in Louisiana.
Hurricane Laura made landfall near Cameron, Louisiana, on that state's southwestern coast as a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph winds around 1 a.m., the National Hurricane Center said.
Hurricane Laura makes landfall on Louisiana coast
Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, made landfall on the southwestern Louisiana coast early Thursday.
The storm made landfall at 1 a.m. near Cameron, Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center said. Catastrophic storm surge, extreme winds and flash flooding were occurring in parts of the state, it said.
Before it officially made landfall, the northern eyewall moved over southwest Louisiana's Cameron Parish, and people still there were warned to take cover immediately.
Nearly 50,000 customers were without power in Cameron and Calcasieu parishes as the eyewall moved onshore, according to utility company Entergy's website.
More than 9,000 customers were without power in Jefferson County in Texas, which is near the Louisiana border, and more than 5,000 were without power in Orange County to the northeast.