Hurricane Laura: What to Know About the Potentially Catastrophic Weather Event

Hurricane Laura is expected to make landfall late Wednesday, with extreme winds and flash flooding possible in multiple regions including Louisiana and Texas.

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2020's certainly had no shortage of deeply worrisome developments, so you'd be forgiven if the now-impending arrival of Hurricane Laura pushes you to your maximum tolerance level.

The latest predictions as of Wednesday afternoon have Laura on track as an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 Hurricane. The National Hurricane Center also warned on Wednesday afternoon that Laura boasts the potential for "catastrophic" storm surges, extreme winds, and flash flooding along the northwest Gulf Coast into early Thursday.

A storm surge of 15-20 feet is now forecast on the Louisiana coast along and to the east of where Laura makes landfall. The hurricane is forecast to be at category four strength this afternoon.

— James Spann (@spann) August 26, 2020

Maximum winds, at the time of this writing, were being recorded at approximately 140 miles per hour. With at least 20 million people in the storm's expected path, more than 500,000 have been hit with evacuation orders, though doing so is greatly complicated due to the country still being very much in the middle of an ongoing pandemic.

By the time of landfall on Wednesday night, however, the NHC is forecasting that Laura will hit sustained winds of 145 miles per hour.

Below, we've put together a quick guide on what to expect with Hurricane Laura, as well as links to those providing assistance in the regions that will potentially be the hardest hit among those in the storm path.

Who will be affected?

Wednesday night into early Thursday, Laura is expected to make landfall near the Texas and Louisiana border. Overnight, Laura will move more inland within that region, with the center forecast to be over northwestern Louisiana on Thursday. By Thursday night, it's expected to be across Arkansas before making it over the mid-Mississippi Valley by Friday.

However, as meteorologist James Spann made clear in a series of warning messages shared on Wednesday, hurricane-force winds are predicted to expand outward as much as 70 miles from the center of the storm.

NHC is forecasting Laura to have 145 mph sustained winds at the time of landfall tonight. Remember, a hurricane is not a dot on a map; hurricane force winds extend outward 70 miles from the center. And, a storm surge of 15-20 feet is likely east of the point of landfall.

— James Spann (@spann) August 26, 2020

What’s going to happen?

As touched on above, the possible impact of such a storm is typically also felt far from where the center eventually makes its way inland. Per the NHC, an "unsurvivable storm surge" is predicted in areas from the far upper Texas coast into southwest Louisiana. Those areas are also among those likely to experience massive power outages that could extend for days and weeks due to downed trees and extensive structural damage. In some spots, wind gusts are due to surpass 100 miles per hour.

Beyond the more dire areas in the storm path, tree damage and power outages are possible in additional regions including parts of Tennessee, with heavy rain possible up into the Ohio and Tennessee valleys moving into the weekend.

What should I do?

First and foremost, pay close attention to your local officials, particularly if you're in an area that's mentioned among continually updated storm path predictions. If required to evacuate, several areas—including in Texas and Louisiana—have set up shelters and other forms of assistance ahead of the storm's landfall. 

For others who may see impact but are not among the regions being focused on for initial landfall preparations and response efforts, prepare for the possibility of power and utility outages by—if possible—stocking up (within reason) on nonperishable food items and other essentials. Due to heat, it's also a good idea to keep battery-powered fans at the ready.

But again, the most important thing you can do is listen to the experts

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