MARCO COLLAPSES, SETS STAGE FOR LAURA TO HIT GULF COAST
NEW ORLEANS — As Tropical Storm Marco fell apart, the Gulf Coast turned its attention Monday to Laura, another system following just behind that could grow into a supercharged Category 3 hurricane with winds topping 110 mph and a storm surge that could swamp entire towns.
Still a tropical storm for now, Laura churned just south of Cuba after killing at least 11 people in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, where it knocked out power and caused flooding in the two nations that share the island of Hispaniola. The deaths reportedly included a 10-year-old girl whose home was hit by a tree and a mother and young son who were crushed by a collapsing wall.
Laura was not expected to weaken over land before moving into warm, deep Gulf waters that forecasters said could bring rapid intensification.
“We’re only going to dodge the bullet so many times. And the current forecast for Laura has it focused intently on Louisiana,” Gov. John Bel Edwards told a news briefing.
Shrimp trawlers and fishing boats were tied up in a Louisiana harbor ahead of the storms. Red flags warned swimmers away from the pounding surf. Both in-person classes and virtual school sessions were canceled in some districts.
In Port Arthur Texas, Mayor Thurman Bartie warned that unless the forecast changes and pushes Laura’s landfall farther east, he will ask the city’s more than 54,000 residents to evacuate starting at 6 a.m. Tuesday.
“If you decide to stay, you’re staying on your own,” Bartie said.
Officials in Houston asked residents to prepare supplies in case they lose power for a few days or need to evacuate homes along the coast.
“We are battle-tested. We are ready to deal with this situation as well,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday.
State emergencies were declared in Louisiana and Mississippi, and shelters were being opened with cots set farther apart, among other measures designed to curb coronavirus infections.
Edwards encouraged evacuees to stay with relatives or in hotels. But officials said they made virus-related preparations at state shelters in case they are needed.
As Marco was on its deathbed, the National Hurricane Center issued its first storm watches for Laura.
Much of the region was also put under a storm surge watch. Forecasters warned of storm surge as high as 11 feet in western Louisiana. Add to that 4 to 10 inches of rain expected when Laura arrives starting late Wednesday.
Cars are parked on higher ground to protect them from possible street flooding in New Orleans on Monday.