Hurrican Laura came ashore as a Category 4 storm early Thursday, pummeling portions of Louisiana and Texas that were in its path. Ferocious winds produced more damage than its storms surge as it hit shore around 1 a.m. with sustained winds of 150 mph, devastating southern Louisiana communities for miles.
The intense storm was ripping apart buildings, severing power lines and clogging streets with debris as a dangerous storm surge trailed behind. More than 800,000 customers were without power Thursday and at least four deaths had been reported in Louisiana, as falling trees claimed their lives.
A 14-year-old girl in Vernon Parish, a man in Jackson Parish, and a 60-year-old man in Acadia Parish, authorities have said. The State Department of Health was unable to provide more details on the fourth, though Gov. Edwards confirmed it was caused by a tree falling.
With sustained winds of 150 mph, Laura’s eye made landfall near Cameron, Louisiana, before plowing a path of destruction north toward Arkansas, where the weakened storm was predicted to then curve east through Kentucky and Tennessee by Friday evening.
More than 1,500 search and rescue personnel, plus 400 boats and high-water vehicles were headed to the worst-hit areas in Louisiana, Edwards said earlier.
In East Texas, rescue teams were out in the Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange areas, Gov. Greg Abbott said, noting major evacuations “no doubt saved lives.” Farther north, tornadoes were still a threat. The Orange are was the worst hit in Texas, according to Abbott in a press conference.
By noon CDT, Laura had become a tropical storm, forecasters said, though they continued to warn of flooding danger and potential tornadoes.
As of 4 p.m. the downgraded storm was about 130 miles south-southwest of Little Rock, Arkansas, with sustained winds of 80 mph moving in a northeast direction. With flooding rainfall and tropical force winds Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson asked residents to “pay attention to the weather.”
There are still threats of tornadoes and damaging winds, so this situation will be updated accordingly.