Those in Louisiana who either chose to stay or were unable to evacuate for Hurricane Laura are being advised, out of an abundance of caution, to keep important personal info on them at all times as the storm moves deeper inland over the state.
In a statement shared to Facebook, the Vermilion Parish Sheriff's Office detailed the areas facing mandatory evacuation, then noted that—while they are indeed "expecting the worse but praying for the best"—those remaining in the area should take care ahead of recovery efforts that won't be able to begin until both "storm and surge" have passed.
"Please evacuate," the department said. "And if you choose to stay and we can't get to you, write your name, address, social security number, and next of kin and put it a [Ziploc] bag in your pocket. Praying that it does not come to this!"
Read the Vermilion Parish Sheriff's Office full statement here.
With winds of 150 mph, Laura made landfall near Cameron, Louisiana on Thursday. The most recent updates from the Weather Channel add that Laura is now tracking through western Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane after making landfall as a strong Category 4. Per the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this marked the first Category 4 landfalling hurricane on record for southwest Louisiana.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards informed the public on Thursday morning that a 14-year-old girl in the state had been killed by a tree falling onto her home near Leesville. "I suspect that won't be the last, though I pray we don't have any more," Edwards told MSNBC. "But we know we have at least one fatality now in Louisiana."
Laura is projected to weaken to a tropical storm as it makes its way into Arkansas, then to a tropical depression as it moves toward the Kentucky and Tennessee areas on Friday. So far, winds produced from the storm have taken out power in southeast Texas and Louisiana for more than 500,000 homes and businesses.