LAURA REACHES ‘FULL BEAST MODE’; STEVEN SPIEL­BERG’S FA­THER DIES

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION/WORLD - BY MELINDA DESLATTE, JEFF MARTIN AND STACEY PLAISANCE

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.

LOLA GOMEZ/AUSTIN AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN VIA AP

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.

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