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Hurricane Laura makes landfall as Category 4: Live updates and path tracker

Here are the latest updates on Hurricane Laura.

Hurricane Laura made landfall in Louisiana near the Texas border early Thursday as a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph.

The storm slammed into Cameron, Louisiana, about 1 a.m., according to the National Hurricane Center, which called it an "extremely dangerous" hurricane.

Hurricane-force winds extended 60 miles from its center. Laura will move inland Thursday morning and move north across Louisiana through Thursday afternoon.

The National Weather Service has said that devastation could spread far inland in eastern Texas and western Louisiana.

Download the NBC News app for latest updates on Hurricane Laura.

1128d ago / 7:41 AM UTC

Laura has made landfall — what's next?

1128d ago / 7:33 AM UTC

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.

1128d ago / 7:09 AM UTC

The scene in Lake Charles, Louisiana

1128d ago / 7:06 AM UTC

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.

1128d ago / 6:10 AM UTC

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.

1128d ago / 5:10 AM UTC

Eyewall of Hurricane Laura moving onshore over southwest Louisiana

The northern eyewall of Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm, was moving over southwestern Louisiana's coastal Cameron Parish, the National Hurricane Center said, and people still in the area were told to take cover immediately.

The eyewall was moving onshore southwestern Louisiana, the hurricane center said at midnight local time.

"TAKE COVER NOW! Treat these imminent extreme winds as if a tornado was approaching and move immediately to the safe room in your shelter. Take action now to protect your life!" the hurricane center warned.

Catastrophic storm surge and dangerous winds and flash flooding was occurring, the hurricane center said.

1128d ago / 4:30 AM UTC

Thousands without power in Louisiana as hurricane nears coast

There were power outages affecting more than 13,000 customers in Louisiana's Calcasieu Parish, in the path of Hurricane Laura, as the Category 4 storm approached the coast late Wednesday.

Calcasieu Parish was ordered to evacuate ahead of the hurricane. Utility company Entergy said on its website that there were a little more than 13,000 customers without power in the parish.

In Cameron Parish, more than 1,000 customers were without power. The parish is on the Gulf Coast next to the Texas border.

1128d ago / 4:17 AM UTC

Extreme wind warnings in Texas, Louisiana as Laura closes in on coast

Anyone left in some areas of Texas and Louisiana, including Port Arthur and Lake Charles, were told to treat imminent winds from Hurricane Laura as a tornado and to seek shelter immediately.

The National Weather Service said there was an "extreme wind warning" in effect as Laura, a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, closed in on the coast.

The National Hurricane Center said at midnight ET that the hurricane's eyewall was nearing the coast of Louisiana. The storm will bring catastrophic storm surge as well as extreme winds and flash flooding, forecasters warned. The storm surge has been called "unsurvivable." 

1128d ago / 4:00 AM UTC
1128d ago / 3:13 AM UTC
1128d ago / 3:12 AM UTC

Hurricane Laura will not alter timing of Trump's acceptance speech, says campaign

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President Trump’s campaign is pushing back at any suggestion that his Thursday acceptance speech could be adjusted due to Hurricane Laura’s impending landfall.

Multiple senior campaign officials tell NBC News  there are no plans to delay the address, with one saying definitively: “The President’s acceptance speech will happen as scheduled Thursday night.”

An administration official tells us the same: the speech on the South lawn will go on, as originally planned. And White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who is at Fort McHenry tonight, previewed Thursday’s  presidential remarks as “comprehensive and straightforward.”

1128d ago / 3:03 AM UTC

Hurricane Laura has stopped intensifying, will likely remain Category 4 until landfall

Hurricane Laura has finally stopped intensifying as dry air from Texas has begun to wrap into its circulation, meteorologist Bill Karins reported.

But Laura will likely remain a destructive Category 4 hurricane until making landfall. 

Laura was 90 miles from Lake Charles, Louisiana at 9 p.m. central time, according to an update by the National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center, with Cypremort, Louisiana reporting sustained winds of 45 mph.

Despite Laura no longer intensifying, storm surges are already heading onshore and will likely batter much of the region.

1128d ago / 2:53 AM UTC

More than 4,000 National Guard members ready in Louisiana, Texas

The National Guard said Wednesday that more than 4,000 members — upwards of 3,000 in Louisiana and more than 1,000 in Texas — were ready to provide help as Hurricane Laura approaches the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Around 40 aircraft and hundreds of high-water or high-profile vehicles, as well as boats, were also ready to assist in any rescues or searches, the National Guard said in a statement.

Hurricane Laura was a category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph Wednesday night as it approached the U.S. Gulf Coast, with a landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border expected late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Forecasters are warning of an "unsurvivable storm surge" and catastrophic damage.

1128d ago / 2:29 AM UTC

Lara Trump offers prayers to those in the path of Hurricane Laura

Lara Trump delivered the first significant mention of Hurricane Laura. 

She offered prayers to the "Gulf states in the path of the hurricane."

The hurricane strengthened to a Category 4 storm Wednesday as it prepares to make landfall along the Texas and Louisiana border overnight. Public health emergencies were declared in Texas and Louisiana.

1128d ago / 1:56 AM UTC

HHS secretary declares public health emergencies in Texas, Louisiana

Public health emergencies were declared in Texas and Louisiana due to Hurricane Laura, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar made the declarations as Laura, currently a Category 4 hurricane, approached the coast of both states with what forecasters warned would be catastrophic storm surges, extreme winds and flooding.

The declarations and associated waivers give the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services greater flexibility, HHS said. Azar said in a statement that they will "ensure that Americans who rely on Medicare and Medicaid have continuous access to the care they need during and after the storm."

Medical personnel and equipment are also on hand to assist, HHS said.

1128d ago / 1:27 AM UTC

Louisiana and Mississippi could face possible tornadoes as Laura approaches

As Laura approaches the continental United States, the National Weather Service anticipates possible tornadoes in the hurricane's outer bands over southeastern Louisiana and extreme southwestern Mississippi, according to a recent update from the NWS National Hurricane Center. 

At 8 p.m. central time, the storm was located 95 miles from Lake Charles, Louisiana and Port Arthur, Texas with maximum sustained winds at 150 mph.

1128d ago / 1:01 AM UTC

Laura poised to become one of strongest hurricanes to make landfall in continental U.S.

Laura is set to become one of the strongest hurricanes to make landfall in the continental United States.

If sustained wind speeds remain at 150 mph, Laura will become one of nine hurricanes to make landfall with 150 mph+ wind intensity since 1851. 

The most recent to make landfall with winds at or above this speed was Hurricane Michael in 2018. Other such storms include Charley in 2004, Andrew in 1992, Camille in 1969, Labor Day in 1935, Indianola in 1886, and Last Island in 1856, according to meteorologist Philip Klotzbach.

1128d ago / 12:22 AM UTC
1128d ago / 12:04 AM UTC

Hurricane Laura’s maximum sustained winds near 150 mph

Hurricane Laura’s maximum sustained winds “have increased to near 150 mph,” according to the latest advisory by the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center.

The Category 4 storm could strengthen further before making landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border, according to the advisory.

1128d ago / 11:26 PM UTC
1128d ago / 11:17 PM UTC
1128d ago / 10:51 PM UTC

San Antonio gets 'way more' hurricane evacuees than expected

SAN ANTONIO — A long line of cars stretched through a large parking area and spilled down the street as Hurricane Laura evacuees lined up to get hotel vouchers Wednesday afternoon.

Under the hot sun, people who said they were waiting between two to four hours tried staying cool in their car air conditioning.

The long line in San Antonino, Texas to get in a parking area to get hotel vouchers on Aug. 26, 2020.
The long line in San Antonino, Texas to get in a parking area to get hotel vouchers on Aug. 26, 2020.Suzanne GAmboa / NBC News

“We’re praying we don’t run out of gas,” said Richard Thomas, 30, who said he had been waiting in line more than three hours. He left Beaumont, Texas at about 11 p.m. and arrived at 3 a.m. in San Antonio, he said. He came with several family members packed in two cars whom he had gathered to get away from the storm.  

He and six others were in his car including three children and a pregnant woman.

San Antonio had expected 300 evacuees Tuesday night but 1,400 arrived by the end of the night, said Joe Arrington, San Antonio Fire Department spokesman. By 5 p.m. Wednesday, 2,103 had come to the help center to get hotel accommodations assigned to them. 

"I just wanted to get my family safe," Thomas said. He said he had stayed in Beaumont during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 due to work, but recently became unemployed because of the coronavirus, he said.

Richard Thomas, 30, of Beaumont, with Maya Matthews, age 1, waited in a line of cars in San Antonio to get assigned hotel rooms where he and his family will wait out Hurricane Laura, on Aug. 26, 2020.
Richard Thomas, 30, of Beaumont, with Maya Matthews, age 1, waited in a line of cars in San Antonio to get assigned hotel rooms where he and his family will wait out Hurricane Laura, on Aug. 26, 2020.Suzanne Gamboa / NBC News

Because of the pandemic, the state had contracted for hotel rooms rather than set up large shelters.

 The help center had been open since 3 p.m. Tuesday, but Arrington said because “we got way more people than we expected overnight” people were given a one-night stay in a hotel room Tuesday night and told to return Wednesday for what will likely be five- to seven-night stays.

Arrington explained people go through the welcome center for accountability purposes so if someone is looking for a loved one after the storm there is a good record. "Lessons learned from Katrina," he said. 

In a news conference Wednesday in Austin, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had said that the large number of evacuees could signifying that people are taking the hurricane warnings seriously.

Gerald Warnell, 59, and his wife Helen, 56, from Orange, Texas, followed buses that were transporting evacuees out of the Gulf Coast to San Antonio. They arrived Tuesday night and went to a hotel, but waited in their car in the line while temperatures hit the mid 90s.

“We don’t have a lot of money. We don’t have gas right now. I’m hoping we can get a gas voucher so we can have some transportation,” said Warnell, who said he earns money doing odd jobs and his wife is disabled.

Ronnie Boyd, 28, was in a car with his sister Ashlee Love, 31 and her 12-year-old son. They arrived from Beaumont at 8 a.m. and said they had been waiting in line for four hours.

“It’s been stressful. We don’t know if we are going to go back to anything or not. We don’t know if we are going to go back to anything or not.”

1128d ago / 10:25 PM UTC
1128d ago / 9:59 PM UTC
1128d ago / 9:48 PM UTC

Map: Hurricane Laura's potential storm surge


Hurricane Laura’s storm surges are forecast to bring "catastrophic damage" to the shores of Texas and Louisiana.

Follow the probability of a storm surge greater than 3 feet above sea level in the map below. See a map tracking the hurricane’s forecast path here.

1128d ago / 9:30 PM UTC

Hurricane Laura's maximum sustained winds could reach 150 mph at landfall

The National Weather Service reported that Laura’s strength has grown "rapidly" Wednesday and that the hurricane's maximum sustained winds could reach 150 mph at landfall.

That sustained wind speed would put it only 7 mph away from a Category 5 designation.

While Hurricane Laura is expected to make landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border, the NWS warns, "Laura is a large hurricane and users are reminded to not focus on the precise track forecast since wind, storm surge, and rainfall hazards extend far from the center."

After making landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, Laura is expected to weaken on Thursday, but will still bring a “swath of damaging winds well inland” in both western Louisiana and “extreme” eastern Texas, according to the report. The cyclone is supposed to move off the coast during the weekend.

1128d ago / 9:04 PM UTC

Special Report: Cat. 4 Hurricane Laura nearing Texas-Louisiana coast; 150 mph winds expected.

1128d ago / 8:56 PM UTC
1128d ago / 8:28 PM UTC

Tornado watch issued for parts of Louisiana and Texas

As residents have been ordered to evacuate Louisiana and Texas in anticipation of Hurricane Laura, a tornado watch has now been issued in parts of those states until 9 p.m. central time.

The tornado watch coincides with Laura's initial bands moving onshore.

1128d ago / 8:24 PM UTC

NWS warns of rising water levels as 'catastrophic' storm surge expected

The National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center reported in its latest Laura update that a "catastrophic" storm surge as well as extreme winds and flash flooding are expected to arrive on the northwest Gulf Coast tonight. The update also detailed that water levels are rising in Texas. 

1128d ago / 8:14 PM UTC

Port Arthur, Texas braces for another major storm

HOUSTON — As Hurricane Laura churned toward his city, the mayor of Port Arthur, Texas, urged residents to evacuate while they still can.

And if they don’t?

“Don’t dial 911. No one’s going to answer,” Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie told reporters.

Port Arthur, a city of about 50,000 people along Texas’ Gulf Coast, has been battered by numerous storms in recent years, first by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and then last year by Tropical Storm Imelda.

Unlike those storms, Hurricane Laura is projected to bring devastating winds and storm surge to Port Arthur, conditions that will make it impossible for emergency workers to respond to distress calls before the storm passes.

Standing in front of a line of EMS workers, Bertie said he wouldn’t put any city employees at risk to help those who’ve refused to leave.

“You are on your own,” he said. “What we cannot do, and as mayor what I will not do, is put any of these people in harm’s way just because of a person deciding they weren’t going to leave and they’re going to ride it out. I have no problem with that. Just know it’s going to be between you and God. OK? That’s all I can say.”

1128d ago / 7:39 PM UTC
1128d ago / 7:24 PM UTC

Hurricane Harvey scars reopened by Laura

Although her home appeared to be just outside Hurricane Laura's cone of uncertainty, Antonieta Cádiz, who fled Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in 2017, was expecting the worst.

"I am hysterical," Cádiz, 41 of Katy, Texas, a suburb of Houston told NBC News. 

Despite her anxiety, she is staying put for now with her two young children and husband.

"COVID," she said. "What are we going to do? We are in a national pandemic. I cannot go and expose my children ... I cannot expose my family to be with other people not knowing if they have COVID or not."

She was not reassured by the fact that the state is putting people in hotels. She and her husband have parked one of their two cars on higher ground and have a small boat in the driveway, as do her neighbors, just in case. 

Cádiz's home flooded in 2017 when local officials opened floodgates to release rainwater dropped by Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm. When the floors cracked and water burst through, she and her husband, two children and a niece fled in a rescue boat that Cádiz flagged down with screams of "Help!"  The storm destroyed the home, which had to be rebuilt. 

A freelance Spanish-language journalist, Cádiz took a temporary job as a spokeswoman for Climate Power 2020 because of her experience.  

"This will happen again, I know it. Yesterday it was Harvey. Today Laura. Tomorrow it will be another catastrophic hurricane," she said. "If we don't do something to face the challenges of climate change, my story will be the story of millions in the U.S. and all over the world."

1128d ago / 7:13 PM UTC
1128d ago / 6:28 PM UTC

Hospital chief in Laura's path: 2020 has been the 'perfect storm'

HOUSTON — As soon as he saw the forecast calling for a Category 3 or 4 hurricane cutting a path directly through his home of Beaumont, Texas, Dr. Gary Mennie knew he and his team needed to act fast.

Mennie, the chief medical officer The Medical Center of Southeast Texas, said his hospital began transferring its most critically ill patients Monday morning, shuttling many of them two hours west by ambulance to Houston, which is now expected to avoid the worst of Hurricane Laura's impacts.

That included all of the hospital's COVID-19 ICU patients.

Now — after months of treating patients on the frontlines of a deadly pandemic — Mennie and dozens of his colleagues are preparing to camp out in a mostly empty hospital, waiting for Laura to come ashore.

"It's like, great, 2020," Mennie said. "The perfect storm."

Like many other hospital workers, Mennie sent his wife and children out of town so he could focus on treating patients without having to wonder whether his family was safe. But it'll be hard not to think of his home in Beaumont. 

Mennie's house was flooded in 2017 during Hurricane Harvey, and again last year during Tropical Storm Imelda. His family had just gotten everything pieced back together, and now Laura is barreling ashore with what forecasters warn could be devastating winds and storm surge.

It's been a long three years, Mennie said. But he and his colleagues won't have time to worry once storm refugees begin streaming through the hospital doors.

"Everybody that stays are the people who say, 'I want to stay. I'm going to ride it out. We're going to be here for the community,'" Mennie said. "And that's sort of in the blood of frontline workers. It's not even an obligation, but you feel that duty. You've got to be there for the community."

1128d ago / 6:26 PM UTC

Flooding in southeast Louisiana

Flood waters in southeast Louisiana have caused partial closures to Louisiana Highway 1, beyond the Leon Theriot Lock in Golden Meadow. Golden Meadow is approximately 75 miles south of New Orleans. 

1128d ago / 6:06 PM UTC

Gov. Greg Abbott urges residents of southeast Texas to get out now

Gov. Greg Abbott pleaded with residents of southeast Texas on Wednesday to evacuate immediately because first responders won't be able to get to any storm-ravaged areas until  the morning.

The impact of Hurricane Laura should be felt at about 7 p.m. CT near the Texas-Louisiana border and then make landfall by 1 a.m.

"The hurricane is going to be quite severe," Abbott told reporters in Austin. "People in that area will be dealing with the ravages of that storm for a few more hours." 

Laura should leave that corner of Texas by morning and be out of the state by the end of Thursday, but Abbott said first-responders won't be able to do much work until 9 a.m. at the earliest.

“It will be a little bit of a lockdown time period for the ability of rescuers and aiders to get in and to provide support for anybody in the local regions," Abbott said. "We urge everybody who may be in harm’s way to take these last few hours to get out of harm's way.” 

1128d ago / 5:53 PM UTC

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warns residents to evacuate now

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards doubled down on warnings about Hurricane Laura, a category 4 storm with 140 mph winds, which is expected to make landfall in Texas and Louisiana later tonight. 

Edwards emphasized that now is the time for Louisianans to evacuate their homes, and said that the window to do so is quickly closing. 

Louisiana is anticipating an “unsurvivable” storm surge that is expected to reach 18 to 20 feet, and the majority of Cameron Parish will be underwater at some point.  

“I am asking people right now to pay attention to this storm and to get out of harm's way if there is an evacuation order in place, whether it’s mandatory or voluntary, and understand our state hasn’t seen a storm surge like this in many, many decades.” 

Already, 200,000 people were ordered to leave low-lying Calcasieu Parish and parts of Cameron Parish in southwestern Louisiana.

For the first time in many years the entire Louisiana National Guard has been activated for Hurricane Laura, according to Edwards. Three thousand guardsmen are currently providing support, and the number will continue to increase throughout the day. 

Edwards added, “If you think you’re safe because you made it through Rita in Southwest Louisiana, understand this storm is going to be more powerful than Rita.” 

1128d ago / 5:51 PM UTC

Laura upgraded to Category 4 hurricane, National Weather Service says

Laura was upgraded to an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 hurricane just before 2 p.m. ET, according to an update from the National Weather Service.

In an alarming all-caps warning, the weather service said Laura was poised to lash the northwest Gulf Coast with "catastrophic storm surge, extreme winds and flash flooding."


The weather service also described the potential surge as “unsurvivable” in some places, with seawater penetrating up to 30 miles inland near the Texas-Louisiana border.

1128d ago / 5:18 PM UTC

President Trump tweets administration 'fully engaged' on storm prep

1128d ago / 5:12 PM UTC

Dire warning from the National Weather Service

1128d ago / 4:45 PM UTC
1128d ago / 4:32 PM UTC

Coronavirus forces hurricane evacuees to hotels in Texas

SAN ANTONIO — Evacuees from the Texas coast began arriving in cities farther inland Wednesday, but officials have had to abandon the large shelters for hotel rooms to wait out Hurricane Laura. 

Cities were seeing more evacuees than expected. 

San Antonio was expecting about 300 people, but by 9 a.m. Wednesday, 1,458 evacuees had driven in or arrived by buses to a welcome center, said Joe Arrington, a spokesman for the San Antonio Fire Department.

Laura intensified overnight and was a Category 3 hurricane Wednesday morning. 

"Usually we would use warehouses or empty retail centers, but because of COVID we are using hotel rooms that were contracted by the state," Arrington said.

The Circuit of Americas racetrack used as a check-in site in Austin shut down for several hours after the city ran out of hotel vouchers, The Austin American-Statesman reported. Evacuees were directed to go to other cities, but the racetrack opened again Wednesday morning for people who wanted to wait for more hotel rooms to become available. 

Arrington said people have generally been arriving with masks and a medical team was on standby should anyone have COVID-19 symptoms. He said the city has resources prepared should more arrive. 

"This is not our first rodeo, to use the full Texas parlance," he said. 

1128d ago / 3:48 PM UTC

Photos: Louisiana residents prepare to evacuate

Image: People prepare to board a bus for evacuation before the arrival of hurricane Laura in Lake Charles
People sit in a stadium as they wait to be evacuated in Lake Charles, La., on Tuesday.Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP - Getty Images
People line up to board buses to evacuate Lake Charles, La., on Wednesday.Gerald Herbert / AP
1128d ago / 3:47 PM UTC

Hospitals prep for 'crazy' dual threat: A hurricane during a pandemic

Emergency officials along Texas' storm-battered coast have gotten plenty of practice responding to disasters in recent years, but they've never seen a scenario like this: A destructive hurricane slamming ashore in the midst of a pandemic.

"It's crazy," said Darrell Pile, CEO of the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council, which coordinates emergency medical response in a 25-county region along the state's coast. "You do get to a point where you're like, what else do you want to put on us? You just have to do your best."

Fortunately, Pile said, the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in southeastern Texas has dropped significantly since early July, when a surge of new cases strained hospital systems across the greater Houston region. 

As Laura approaches, Pile said hospitals have capacity to care for a rush of patients injured in the storm. But he and other emergency officials are concerned about how to do it safely in the midst of a pandemic.

Experts worry that emergency shelters or crowded hospitals could become incubators for new COVID-19 outbreaks across the region, and are taking steps to mitigate the risk.

"Social distancing will be much more difficult for people who are evacuating," Pile said. "However, they can wear a mask. And they can do their best to minimize being too close to other people. My point is, everyone who is being impacted by this storm still needs to remember what they've been taught to minimize the spread of COVID."

1128d ago / 3:39 PM UTC

6 million people under flash flood watches

More than 6 million people were under flash flood watches from Louisiana to Arkansas on Wednesday.

Parts of the northwestern Gulf Coast, from western Louisiana to far-eastern Texas, could see 15 inches of rain — on top of a 10 to 15 foot storm surge that could reach 30 miles inland.

The storm surge, a tsunami-like rise of water, "will cause catastrophic damage from Sea Rim State Park, Texas, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana," the National weather Service said. Some areas could see surges up to 20 feet, the National Weather Service said, adding levels even approaching that high were "unsurvivable."

"The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the right of the landfall location, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves," the weather service said.

A buoy located near Laura clocked a wave height of 37 feet Wednesday morning, alarming forecasters.

1128d ago / 3:32 PM UTC

Laura expected to make landfall as Category 4 hurricane

Hurricane Laura is expected to make landfall as an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 hurricane, the National Weather Service warned at 11 a.m. ET.

As of Wednesday morning, Laura was about 230 miles from the coast of Texas and Louisiana, and moving at 16 mph.

The storm was expected to make landfall late Wednesday night. But with Laura's hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 70 miles, and its tropical-storm-force winds up to 175 miles, harsh conditions are expected between 8 p.m. Wednesday and 6 a.m. Thursday.

1128d ago / 2:44 PM UTC

Fear of coronavirus could give people under evacuation orders pause

A fear of getting sick with the coronavirus may make some people hesitant to go to shelters despite widespread evacuation orders.

“Hopefully it’s not that threatening to people, to lives, because people are hesitant to go anywhere due to COVID,” resident Robert Duffy said as he placed sandbags around his home in Morgan City, Louisiana. “Nobody wants to sleep on a gym floor with 200 other people. It’s kind of hard to do social distancing.”

Officials urged people to stay with relatives or in hotel rooms to avoid spreading the virus. Buses were stocked with protective equipment and disinfectant, and they would carry fewer passengers to keep people apart, Texas officials said.

Shelters opened with cots set farther apart to curb coronavirus infections. People planning to enter shelters were told to bring just one bag of personal belongings each, and a mask to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Fearing that some residents might not want to evacuate, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said those in southwest Louisiana need to reach wherever they intend to ride out the storm by noon Wednesday.

1128d ago / 2:37 PM UTC

NOAA aircraft captures aerials of Hurricane Laura from the Gulf of Mexico

1128d ago / 2:24 PM UTC

More than 500,000 residents ordered to evacuate


In what is now the largest evacuation in the U.S. since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, more than half a million people have been ordered to flee.

More than 385,000 residents were told to evacuate from the Texas cities of Beaumont, Galveston and Port Arthur. Ten more Texas cities and counties were under voluntary evacuation orders, including parts of Houston. About 60 counties in the state were under a disaster declaration Wednesday.

Another 200,000 people were ordered to leave low-lying Calcasieu Parish and parts of Cameron Parish in southwestern Louisiana.

“Cameron Parish is going to be part of the Gulf of Mexico for a couple of days based on this forecast track,” said Donald Jones, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

1128d ago / 2:12 PM UTC

Track Hurricane Laura's path with our interactive map