LAURA REACHES ‘FULL BEAST MODE’; STEVEN SPIELBERG’S FATHER DIES
DELCAMBRE, La. — Laura roared toward landfall in southwestern Louisiana near the Texas border as a menacing Category 4 hurricane late Wednesday, raising fears of a 20-foot storm surge that forecasters said would be “unsurvivable” and capable of engulfing entire communities. Ocean water topped by white-capped waves rose ominously as the monster neared.
Authorities implored coastal residents of Texas and Louisiana to evacuate, but not everyone did before winds began buffeting trees back and forth in an area that was devastated by Rita in 2005.
The storm grew nearly 87% in power in just 24 hours to a size the National Hurricane Center called “extremely dangerous.” Drawing energy from the warm Gulf of Mexico waters, the system appeared to be the most powerful hurricane to strike the U.S. so far this year.
“It looks like it’s in full beast mode, which is not what you want to see if you’re in its way,” University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy said.
Winds were expected to reach 150 mph before landfall, and forecasters said up to 15 inches of rain could fall in some places.
One major Louisiana highway already had standing water as Laura’s outer bands moved ashore with tropical storm-force winds. Thousands of sandbags lined roadways in tiny Lafitte, and winds picked up as shoppers rushed into a grocery store in lowlying Delcambre. Trent Savoie, 31, said he was staying put.
“With four kids and 100 farm animals, it’s just hard to move out,” he said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards fretted that the dire predictions were not resonating despite authorities putting more than 500,000 coastal residents under mandatory evacuation orders.
Edwards activated the state’s entire National Guard. In Lake Charles, Guard members drove school buses around neighborhoods, offering to pick up families.
Across the state line in Port Arthur, Texas, few stragglers boarded evacuation buses, and city officials announced that two C-130 transport planes offered the last chance to leave.
A Category 4 hurricane can render wide areas uninhabitable for weeks or months and knock out power for just as long.
The National Hurricane Center kept raising its estimate of Laura’s storm surge, from 10 feet just a couple of days ago to twice that size — a height that forecasters said would be especially deadly.
On Twitter, President Donald Trump urged coastal residents to heed local officials.
Dylan Trotti, 11, sits on an ice chest full of food as his parents prepare to evacuate as Hurricane Laura approaches in West Orange, Texas, on Wednesday.