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Hurricane Laura Moves Inland Across Louisiana With Damaging Winds, Flooding Rain and Tornadoes After Category 4 Landfall

Published in 27 August, 2020

  • Laura made landfall near Cameron, Louisiana, early Thursday with winds of 150 mph.

  • Wind gusts of 100 to 135 mph have been recorded in southwestern Louisiana.

  • Laura is now tracking inland across western Louisiana with damaging winds.

  • Laura is also an inland flood risk as far north and east as Arkansas and the Ohio and Tennessee valleys.

  • Isolated tornadoes are also expected from Laura.

  • High water levels from storm surge will continue in coastal areas.

Hurricane Laura made landfall early Thursday morning and is now tracking northward across western Louisiana with threats of destructive winds, flooding rainfall, storm surge and tornadoes.

Current Status
Laura made landfall near Cameron, Louisiana, at 1 a.m. CDT as a strong Category 4 with 150 mph winds, southwest Louisiana’s first Category 4 landfalling hurricane on record, according to NOAA’s historical database.

Laura is now tracking through western Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane this morning. The hurricane’s winds will slowly weaken as it moves farther inland toward Arkansas today.

Laura has produced the following wind gusts in Louisiana early Thursday morning:

-Lake Charles: 134 mph

-Calcasieu Pass: 127 mph

-Cameron: 116 mph

-Alexandria: 85 mph

The winds have knocked out power to more than 500,000 homes and businesses in southeast Texas and Louisiana, according to poweroutage.us.

Extensive wind damage was reported in Lake Charles, Louisiana, including numerous shattered windows in downtown skyscrapers, a communication tower collapsed, power poles toppled and roofs shredded.

Hurricane warnings have been dropped at the immediate cost, but continue for inland parishes of Louisiana and counties of east Texas, including as far north as Shreveport.

Tropical storm warnings extend as far north as central Arkansas, including Little Rock.

A storm surge of just over 9 feet inundated the coast near Cameron, Louisiana, around the time of Laura’s landfall. The worst of the storm surge may have been just east of Cameron, though no weather instruments were available to measure it.

It’s possible the track of Laura, while producing destructive winds in the hurricane’s eyewall, may have tracked just far enough east to spare the Lake Charles metro area a much worse fate from surge flooding.

West to southwest winds to the south of Laura’s center did pile water from Lake Charles into parts of downtown Lake Charles several hours after landfall early Thursday morning, in areas that were previously dry, according to storm chaser Chris Jackson. A peak storm surge of around 4.65 feet was measured by a gauge along Lake Charles downtown.

Storm surge of 3 to 5 feet was also measured around Vermilion Bay, along the south-central Louisiana coast. Some water pushed up the Vermilion River into parts of Lafayette, Louisiana, early Thursday.

Storm surge of about 2.4 feet was recorded in Port Arthur, Texas, and about 4 feet at Galveston.

A storm surge warning remains in effect from High Island, Texas, to the mouth of the Mississippi River in southeast Louisiana.

NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center has issued a tornado watch valid until 4 p.m. CDT for parts of Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi. The watch area includes Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Jackson and Little Rock.

Forecast
Track and Intensity

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecast shows Laura will track generally north on Thursday and then turn more to the east by Friday.

Laura should weaken to a tropical storm later Thursday as it moves into Arkansas. It’s predicted to weaken to a tropical depression as it tracks toward Kentucky and Tennessee on Friday.

Wind

The core of Laura’s strongest winds are now in central and western Louisiana. Wind gusts over 80 mph are possible near where the center of Laura tracks through western Louisiana this morning.

The winds will contribute to widespread power outages possibly lasting for days, if not over a week, downed trees and structural damage.

The potential for tree damage and power outages will affect areas farther inland along the path of Laura across eastern Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and western Tennessee.

Heavy Rain Threat

Laura will also spread heavy rain far inland through parts of the lower and middle Mississippi valleys, Ohio Valley, Tennessee Valley and the mid-Atlantic into Saturday.

Flash flood watches have been issued by the National Weather Service from Louisiana and eastern Texas to as far north and east as Arkansas, western Kentucky, western Tennessee, far northern Mississippi and extreme southern Illinois.

Here’s a look at what rainfall totals can be expected along the path of Laura, according to NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center and the National Hurricane Center.

Thursday Into Friday:

-Parts of southwestern Louisiana and the Golden Triangle of southeastern Texas: 8 to 12 inches, with isolated amounts up to 18 inches.

-Eastern Texas, central and western Louisiana: 5 to 10 inches, with isolated amounts of 15 inches.

-Arkansas: 3 to 7 inches, with isolated totals of up to 10 inches.

The rainfall in these areas could lead to widespread flash flooding, especially in urban areas, and minor to moderate river flooding that could linger for some time after Laura leaves.

Friday into Saturday:

-Mid-Mississippi Valley, Tennessee Valley and lower Ohio Valley: 2 to 4 inches, with isolated totals up to 6 inches.

-Mid-Atlantic: 1 to 3 inches.

Localized flash flooding and urban flooding is possible in these areas.

Tornadoes

Landfalling hurricanes sometimes produce tornadoes to the east of where the storm’s center tracks.

The area with the greatest chance of seeing a few tornadoes from Laura on Thursday is from much of Louisiana into western Mississippi and Arkansas.

Friday’s threat of isolated tornadoes from Laura will be from portions of the lower Mississippi Valley into the Tennessee Valley and lower Ohio Valley. This includes eastern Arkansas, northern Mississippi, northern Alabama, southeast Missouri, western and central Kentucky and western and middle Tennessee.

Storm Surge Threat

The highest storm surge is expected along and to the immediate east of the center of Laura as it moves ashore Wednesday night into early Thursday. Areas from the far upper Texas coast into southwest Louisiana will have an “unsurvivable storm surge,” the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

The NHC predicts an inundation of 15 to 20 feet above ground level from Johnson Bayou, Louisiana, to Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana, including Calcasieu Lake, if it occurs at high tide. A storm surge of 10 to 15 feet above ground level is also possible from Intracoastal City, Louisiana, to Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana.

The National Hurricane Center said storm surge could penetrate up to 40 miles inland from the coast in southwest Louisiana and far southeast Texas.

See the map below for other storm surge peak inundation forecasts from the NHC.

Follow the advice of local and state officials if you are ordered to evacuate an area prone to storm surge flooding.

Laura’s History
Tropical Depression Thirteen formed in the Atlantic last Wednesday night (Aug. 19) and strengthened into Tropical Storm Laura on Friday morning (Aug. 20.)

Laura is the earliest Atlantic ‘L’ named storm on record. The previous record was Luis on Aug. 29, 1995, according to Phil Klotzbach, tropical scientist at Colorado State University.

Laura brought heavy rainfall and gusty winds to the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico later Friday through Saturday.

Southern parts of Puerto Rico picked up 2 to 6 inches of rainfall.

Winds gusted up to 75 mph at Salinas, along Puerto Rico’s southern coast.

Portions of the Dominican Republic picked up nearly a foot of rain from Laura over the weekend, which triggered serious flash flooding in some areas.

Sustained winds of 60 mph with a gust over 70 mph was measured in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Sunday evening.

Laura made landfall on the Pinar del Rio province in western Cuba around 8:00 p.m. Monday with maximum sustained winds of about 65 mph.

A wind gust of 69 mph was measured in Key West, Florida, Monday afternoon as a line of showers associated with Laura moved through.

Laura became the fourth hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season Tuesday morning, based on measurements taken by NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft.

Laura had 150 mph winds when it made landfall at 1 a.m. CDT on Thursday near Cameron, Louisiana. It was southwest Louisiana’s first Category 4 hurricane landfall on record, dating to 1851, according to Steve Bowen, meteorologist with Aon.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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