GALVESTON, Texas (AP) – In the largest US evacuation of the pandemic, more than half a million people were ordered Tuesday to flee the Gulf Coast as Laura strengthens in a hurricane expected to strike Texas and Louisiana with fierce winds, heavy flooding, and the power to push nautical miles inland.
More than 385,000 residents have been told to flee the Texas towns of Beaumont, Galveston and Port Arthur, and 200,000 others have been ordered to leave the lower parish of Calcasieu in southwest Louisiana, where forecasters have said so far A 13-foot (4-meter) wave-topped storm surge could overwhelm entire communities.
On Tuesday evening, meteorologists expected the storm to increase by 33%, from 90 mph (144 km / h) to 120 mph (193 km / h) in just 24 hours. They predict Laura will hit the coast like a large Category 3 hurricane. The build-up could slow down or stop just before landing, forecasters said.
“The waters are warm enough everywhere to withstand a major hurricane, Category 3 or better.
The waters are very warm where there is a storm and it will be warm all the way to the Gulf Coast, ”said Ed Rappaport, deputy director of the National Hurricane Center.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said Laura was preparing to look a lot like Hurricane Rita 15 years ago when it devastated southwest Louisiana.
“We will have significant flooding in places that normally don’t see them,” he said.
Ocean water is expected to push land along more than 724 miles of coastline from Texas to Mississippi. Hurricane warnings were issued from the San Luis Pass, Texas, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana, and storm warnings from Port Arthur, Texas, a flood protection system at the mouth of the Mississippi River .
Evacuations could become even larger if the storm’s track veers east or west, said Craig Fugate, former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Concerned that people might not be able to evacuate in time.
Edwards said those in southwest Louisiana must be where they plan to exit Laura at noon on Wednesday when the state begins to feel the effects of the storm. New Fortnite season sees
Officials have urged people to stay with relatives or in hotel rooms to avoid spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.
The buses were fitted with protective gear and disinfectant and would carry fewer passengers to keep people separated, Texas officials said.
Whitney Frazier, 29, of Beaumont, spent Tuesday morning trying to find transportation to a high school where she could catch a bus out of the area.
“Especially with everything COVID-related already underway besides a mandatory evacuation, it’s very stressful,” Frazier said.
The storm also endangered a center of America’s energy industry. The government said 84% of Gulf oil production and about 61% of natural gas production had been halted. Nearly 300 platforms were evacuated.
While oil prices often rise before a major storm with a slowdown in production, consumers are unlikely to see big price changes as the pandemic has decimated demand for fuel.
As of Tuesday evening, Laura was 700 kilometers southeast of Lake Charles, Louisiana, traveling west to northwest at 28 km / h. Its peak winds were 85 mph (140 km / h).
Laura passed through Cuba after killing nearly two dozen people on the island of Hispaniola, including 20 in Haiti and three in the Dominican Republic, where she cut the power and caused intense flooding. The deaths reportedly included a 10-year-old girl whose home was hit by a tree and a mother and young son crushed by a collapsing wall.
Up to 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain could fall in parts of Louisiana, said Donald Jones, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
In Grand Isle, Louisiana, Nicole Fantiny said she plans to weather the hurricane on Barrier Island along with a few dozen other people.
“That may still change, but we continue to hope and pray that he continues to go further west as he does,” said Fantiny, who runs a restaurant.
In Galveston and Port Arthur, Texas, mandatory evacuation orders went into effect just before dawn Tuesday. “If you decide to stay, you will be alone,” said Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie.
I hope it’s not that threatening for people, for life, because people are reluctant to go anywhere because of COVID, ”said Robert Duffy placing sandbags around his house in Morgan City, Louisiana. he wants to sleep on the gym floor with 200 other people.
Houston officials have asked residents to prepare supplies in case they lose power for a few days or need to evacuate homes along the coast. Some in the region are still recovering from Hurricane Harvey three years ago.
Laura’s arrival comes just days before the August 29 anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
which shattered New Orleans dikes, leveled much of the Mississippi coastline and killed up to 1,800 people. in 2005. Less than a month later, Hurricane Rita struck southwest Louisiana as a Category 3 storm.
Laura was not a big concern for Kerry Joe Richard of Stephensville, Louisiana. As the storm approached, he was catching catfish from a small dock that overlooked the bayou behind his raised, wood-frame house.
“The only thing that worries me is if the fish stops biting,” he said.
Plaisance reported from Stephensville, Louisiana. Associated Press writers Juan Lozano in Houston; Jeff Martin in Marietta, Georgia; Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge; Louisiana; Kevin McGill in New Orleans; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; Evens Sanon in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Cathy Bussewitz in New York; and Paul Weber in Austin, Texas contributed to this report.
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press.
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed without permission.