Watch live satellite tracking and forecasting of Hurricane Laura.
Laura rapidly gained strength Wednesday, raising fears that it could come ashore as a Category 4 hurricane with a 20-foot storm surge that forecasters said would be “unsurvivable” and capable of sinking entire communities. Authorities implored coastal residents of Texas and Louisiana to flee.
The storm grew nearly 70% in power in just 24 hours to reach Category 3 status, and it continued to draw energy from the warm Gulf of Mexico waters. The system was on track to arrive late Wednesday or early Thursday as the most powerful hurricane to strike the U.S. so far this year.
Hurricane Laura is forecast to rapidly power up into a “catastrophic” Category 4 hurricane, even stronger than previously expected, as it churns toward Texas and Louisiana gathering wind and water that swirls over much of the Gulf of Mexico.
Satellite images show that Laura has become “a formidable hurricane” in recent hours, threatening to smash homes and sink entire communities. It has undergone a remarkable intensification, “and there are no signs it will stop soon,” the National Hurricane Center said in a briefing early Wednesday.
Laura’s maximum sustained winds have increased to near 110 mph (175 kph) with higher gusts, forecasters said early Wednesday.
“We are expecting widespread power outages, trees down. Homes and businesses will be damaged,” said Donald Jones, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Lake Charles, Louisiana, which is near the bullseye of Laura’s forecast track.
“I’m telling you, this is going to be a very serious situation,” Jones said.
A Category 4 hurricane will do catastrophic damage: “Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months,” the weather service says.