NEW ORLEANS — The National Hurricane Center said Wednesday that storm surge from Hurricane Laura could reach an “unsurvivable” 20 feet in parts of Texas and Louisiana.
Forecasters say Hurricane Laura rapidly strengthened overnight and is now set to make landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border as an “extremely dangerous” category-4 hurricane late Wednesday into early Thursday. The NHC says Laura will bring “catastrophic” storm surge, extreme winds, and flash flooding to the northwest Gulf Coast.
In a dire 10 a.m. public advisory, forecasters warned that “only a few hours remain to protect life and property.”
Hurricane Laura is located about 365 miles southwest of Lake Charles, La., as of 10 a.m. Wednesday. It is moving northwest at 16 mph with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph.
The NHC said “unsurvivable” storm surge with large destructive waves will cause catastrophic damage from Sea Rime State Park, Texas, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana, including Calcasieu and Sabine lakes.
“This storm surge could penetrate up to 30 miles inland from the immediate coastline in southwestern Louisiana and far southeastern Texas,” the NHC public advisory said.
Areas between Johnson Bayou, La., to Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge including Calcasieu Lake are expected to see 15-20 feet storm surge.
Hurricane-force winds are expected in the Hurricane Warning area Wednesday night into Thursday. The storm is expected to drop up to 6 inches of rain in some areas and isolated tornadoes are possible.
"This is shaping up to be just a tremendous storm," Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said on the Weather Channel Wednesday morning.
"Heed the advice of your local authorities. If they tell you to go, go! Your life depends on it today," said Joel Cline, a tropical program coordinator at the National Weather Service said. "It's a serious day and you need to listen to them."
A National Weather Service meteorologist in Lake Charles - in the bullseye of Laura's projected path - took to Facebook Live to deliver an urgent warning for people living south of Interstate 10:
"Your life will be in immediate and grave danger beginning this evening if you do not evacuate," Dave Jone said.
Hurricane Laura’s current path is similar to the path Hurricane Rita took in 2005 when the weakening category-3 storm ravaged the same area of the Gulf Coast.
Hurricane Rita produced 15-18 feet of storm surge in Cameron, La., although finding accurate measurements were daunting because so many structures near where the storm made landfall were completely destroyed.
Rita pushed water into Calcasieu Lake and Calcasieu River, reaching portions of the Lake Charles area. In several locations, the storm surge reached Interstate 10 which is located about 25 miles north from the Gulf Coast.