Laura blasts Gulf Coast with wind, rain, and wall of seawater

Hurricane Laura pounded the Gulf Coast with ferocious wind and torrential rain and unleashed a wall of seawater that would push 40 miles inland because the Category 4 storm roared ashore Thursday in Louisiana near the Texas border. A minimum of one person was, killed.

Laura blasts Gulf Coast with wind, rain, and wall of seawater

Laura battered a tall building in Lake Charles, blowing out windows as glass and debris flew to the bottom. Police spotted a floating casino that came unmoored and hit a bridge. However, hours after the hurricane made landfall, the wind and rain were still blowing too hard for authorities to see for survivors.

Gov. John Bell Edwards reported Louisiana's first fatality — a 14-year-old girl who died when a tree fell on her range in Leesville.

Hundreds of thousands of individuals were ordered’ to evacuate before the hurricane, but not everyone fled from the world, which was devastated’ by Hurricane Rita in 2005.

“There are some people still in town, and other people are calling ... but there ain’t no thanks to get to them,” Tony Guillory, president of the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, said over the phone from a Lake Charles building that was shaking from the storm.

Guillory said he hoped the stranded people might be rescued’ later within the day, but he feared that blocked roads, downed power lines and floodwaters could get within the way.

“We know anyone that stayed that on the brink of the coast, we’ve need to pray for them, because watching the storm surge, there would be little chance of survival,” Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser told ABC’s morning America.

More than 600,000 homes and businesses were without power within the two states, consistent with the web site PowerOutage.Us, which tracks utility reports.

The National Hurricane Center said Laura slammed the coast with winds of 150 mph (241 kph) at 1 a.m. CDT near Cameron, a 400-person community about 30 miles (48 kilometers) east of the Texas border. Forecasters had warned that the storm surge would be “unsurvivable” and therefore the damage “catastrophic.”

They predicted a storm surge of 15 to twenty feet in Port Arthur, Texas, and a stretch of Louisiana including Lake Charles, a city of 80,000 people on Lake Calcasieu.

"This surge could penetrate up to 40 miles inland from the immediate coastline, and floodwaters won't fully recede for several days," the hurricane center said.

Hours after it arrived, Laura weakened to a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph). The storm was 65 miles (105 kilometers) southeast of Shreveport and moving north. Damaging winds extended outward as far as 175 miles (280 kilometers), consistent with the hurricane center.

Dick Gremillion, the emergency director in Calcasieu Parish, said authorities were unable to urge bent assess damage.

"The wind remains over 50 mph. It’s getting to need to drop significantly before they will even run any emergency calls. We also need daylight,” Gremillion said in an interview with Lake Charles TV station KPLC.

More than 580,000 coastal residents were ordered’ to hitch the most important evacuation since the coronavirus pandemic began and lots of did, filling hotels and sleeping in cars since officials didn't want to open large shelters that would invite more spread of COVID-19.

But in Cameron Parish, where Laura came ashore, Nungesser said 50 to 150 people refused pleas to go away and planned to endure the storm, some in elevated homes and even recreational vehicles. The result might be deadly.

“It’s a really sad situation,” said Ashley Buller, assistant director of emergency preparedness. “We did everything we could to encourage them to go away.”

Becky Clements, 56, didn't gamble. She evacuated from Lake Charles after hearing that it could take an immediate hit. With memories of Rita's destruction almost 15 years ago, she and her family found an Airbnb many miles inland.

“The devastation afterward in our town which whole corner of the state was just awful,” Clements recalled. “Whole communities were washed away, never to exist again.”

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Pete Gaynor urged people in Laura's path to remain home, if that's still safe. “Don't leave sightseeing. You set yourself, your family in danger, and you set first responders in danger," he told “CBS This Morning.”

FEMA has many resources staged to assist survivors, Gaynor said. Edwards mobilized the National Guard to assist, and state Department of Wildlife crews had boats prepared for water rescues.

Forecasters expected a weakened Laura to cause widespread flash flooding in states far away from the coast. An unusual tropical storm warning was issued’ as far north as Little Rock, where forecasters expected gusts of fifty mph (80 kph) and a deluge of rain through Friday. The storm was so powerful that it could regain strength after turning east and reaching the Atlantic, potentially threatening the densely populated Northeast.

Laura hit the U.S. after killing nearly twenty-four people on the island of Hispaniola, including 20 in Haiti and three within the Dominican Republic, where it knocked out power and caused intense flooding.

It was the seventh named storm to strike the U.S. this year, setting a replacement record for U.S. landfalls by the top of August. The old record was six in 1886 and 1916, consistent with Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotz Bach.


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