MARCO COLLAPSES, SETS STAGE FOR LAURA TO HIT GULF COAST

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION/WORLD - BY RE­BECCA SAN­TANA AND SETH BOREN­STEIN

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.

EMILY KASK/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Cars are parked on higher ground to pro­tect them from pos­si­ble street flood­ing in New Orleans on Mon­day.

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