In a scene that may eerily replicate the mass evacuations that occurred with Hurricane Rita in 2005, residents in the same area are warned to flee the coasts of Texas and Louisiana as a powerful Category 4 hurricane will soon barrel over the area.
Hurricane Laura, now a major Category 3 windstorm is expected to intensify and barrel over the region with multiple weapons of heavy rainfall, catastrophic winds, and an angry, surging Gulf of Mexico.
Over 2 million people evacuated when Hurricane Rita slammed the region in 2005. People were caught in traffic jams. Low on fuel, hungry, needing to relieve themselves, evacuees traumatized that they may get caught on the road and could not escape in time.
Houston is not expected to be hard hit with this storm.
Tomorrow, it will be Hurricane Laura that will slam into the Gulf’s coastal cities at the Texas and Louisiana border. However, powerful winds and rainbands may begin as early as this afternoon. Evacuations have begun in some areas, and residents warned that the window of escape is rapidly closing.
For this #WednesdayMorning, take a look at #HurricaneLaura with @NOAA's #GOESEast satellite as the hurricane's convection bursts with lightning. As of 8 a.m. EDT, #Laura had winds of 115 mph and was rapidly intensifying in the Gulf of Mexico.— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) August 26, 2020
Latest: https://t.co/1L8q1zg4eW pic.twitter.com/yyxJkmlfnj
“This is a major hurricane,” Mr. Edwards, a Democrat, said during a briefing on Tuesday evening, beseeching residents again to quickly decide if they were going to evacuate and then start moving. “It’s going to be a large, powerful storm.”
The center of the storm is bound for the Texas-Louisiana border. But a vast and heavily populated stretch of the Gulf Coast is bracing for the possibility of hurricane-level conditions, reaching from west of Galveston Island in Texas to Morgan City, La.
Hurricane-strength winds were expected in that region starting on Wednesday night, the National Hurricane Center said. It warned that as the storm moved north, Laura was likely to produce a “life-threatening storm surge, extreme winds and flash flooding” over eastern Texas and Louisiana.The surge could reach as far as 30 miles inland from Louisiana’s southwestern coast, and produce “potentially catastrophic flooding” from San Luis Pass, Texas, to the mouth of the Mississippi River, the center said.
Storm surge from Hurricane #Laura will likely be catastrophic from Lake Charles to Lake Arthur with up to 15 feet of flooding possible. Damage to homes and well-structured buildings are likely. Evacuations across this region need to be taken seriously. pic.twitter.com/JePzdGVtBU— WeatherOptics (@weatheroptics) August 26, 2020
Officials warned of storm surges across the coastline, reaching in some places as high as 13 feet, as well as powerful winds. There is also the threat of flash floods and tornadoes further inland, with the potential for the storm to maintain hurricane strength as it pushes north toward Shreveport, La.
“We’re going to have significant flooding in places that we don’t ordinarily see it,” Mr. Edwards said.
City and county officials in Texas and Louisiana have issued evacuation orders affecting about 500,000 residents, particularly those living in low-lying areas. In Texas, thousands of emergency workers, including the National Guard, were poised to spring into action with boats, aircraft and other equipment when the storm hits.
Hurricane Laura has kept people along the Gulf Coast guessing for days as the projected track continues to change. Turner said he woke up Tuesday to find Laura’s track had shifted slightly west and closer to Houston, the country’s fourth-largest city with a population of about 7 million.
In an interview with ABC News Tuesday, the mayor urged people not to panic. City officials said they don’t expect Laura to be another Hurricane Harvey or Tropical Storm Imelda, which both led to catastrophic flooding. They do, however, expect this storm to be a fast-moving wind event, which could bring a storm surge, structural damage and power outages.
Compounding the situation, of course, is the pandemic, which is why Turner told residents to stock up on necessary food, supplies and PPE. He said he anticipates that COVID-19 testing will be suspended until after the storm and the city won’t be opening mass shelters as it has in years past.
One of the nation's largest adaptation projects, nicknamed the "Ike Dike," is supposed to protect Texas from hurricanes like Laura. After 12 years of planning, it's not complete. https://t.co/6I30c4rBm7— E&E News (@EENewsUpdates) August 26, 2020
Circuit of the Americas, where they were given information on a hotel to stay in that was paid for by the city, said Austin’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management spokesman Bryce Bencivengo.
Gov. Greg Abbott said on Tuesday that Circuit of the Americas would be ready to accept evacuees by 4 p.m. At around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, the city ran out of hotel space for evacuees, Bencivengo said.
“Yes, we have stopped processing individuals who are evacuating,” he said. “We filled up our allotment of hotels that we have available to us at this time.”
Bencivengo said evacuees should not go to Circuit of the Americas. Signs along Texas 71 are still directing evacuees to go to the race track, even though gates there are closed.
On Tuesday, emergency management staff were preparing to accept as many as 3,000 evacuees to house in hotels in the city.
Bencivengo said the city did not yet have an exact number of how many evacuees have been accepted into Austin.