Laura strengthens into hurricane, evacuations underway


LAKE CHARLES, La. (NewsNation) — Laura has strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane Tuesday, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph.

NewsNation Chief Meteorologist Albert Ramon said the hurricane is located roughly 580 miles southeast of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and moving west-northwest at 16 mph, as of Tuesday morning.

Laura is expected to strengthen into a Category 2 hurricane by Wednesday morning, and then a Category 3 hurricane by that night, with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph. Landfall is expected Wednesday night or early Thursday morning near the Texas and Louisiana border, Ramon reported.

The National Hurricane Center has issued a Hurricane Warning from San Luis Pass near Texas to Intracoastal City, Louisiana.

A Storm Surge Warning is also in effect from San Luis Pass to the mouth of the Mississippi River, including areas inside the Port Arthur Hurricane Flood Protection system.

Along with the heavy rain and storm surge threat, destructive winds are also likely for areas near Laura’s center of circulation. The American Model shows the potential for Category 2 and Category 3 hurricane force winds, especially to the right of the eye-wall on late Wednesday night, Ramon said.

The force of the wind, combined with the forward momentum of Laura, will force sea water inland making for a significant storm surge threat for areas east of the eye-wall.

The next full forecast update from the National Hurricane Center is expected by 5 p.m. ET.

Laura passed Cuba after killing nearly two dozen people on the island of Hispaniola, including 20 in Haiti and 3 in the Dominican Republic, where it knocked out power and caused intense flooding. The deaths reportedly included a 10-year-old girl whose home was hit by a tree and a mother and young son crushed by a collapsing wall.

Two Texas Gulf Coast towns are being evacuated ahead of the storm. Officials in Port Arthur issued an evacuation order Monday night, NewsNation affiliate KXAN reported.

Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie told residents to evacuate by 6 a.m. CST on Tuesday.

The city of Galveston has also issued a mandatory evacuation order. Residents started evacuating the island Tuesday, and are asked to leave the area by 12 p.m. CST on Tuesday.

“With the uncertainties of this storm and its increasing strength, we need to take all necessary precautions to protect our residents,” Galveston Mayor Pro Tem Craig Brown said. “It’s imperative that you make plans this morning to secure your homes and move you and your family to safety off island.”

Texas A&M University at Galveston has ordered students, faculty and staff to evacuate Tuesday “out of an abundance of caution,” the school said in a statement.

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The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate KXAN contributed to this report.

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