Hurricane Laura to hit coasts of Louisiana, Texas with force

First Alert! Powerful Hurricane Laura moves through the ArkLaTex Thursday

Hurricane Laura slammed into the southern USA state of Louisiana Thursday and the monster category 4 storm prompted warnings of "unsurvivable" ocean surges and evacuation orders for hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents.

More than 290,000 homes and businesses were without power in Texas and Louisiana, as near-constant lightning provided the only light for some.

The windows of the city's 22-storey Capital One Tower were blown out, street signs were toppled and pieces of wooden fence and debris from collapsed buildings lay scattered in the flooded streets, video footage on Twitter and Snapchat showed. However, Katrina's winds and waves in the Gulf, hours prior to landfall, weren't as strong as Laura's, according to buoy readings in the Gulf that measured both storms.

Hurricane Laura is also an inland flood risk as far north and east as Arkansas and the OH and Tennessee valleys. There are no other reported fatalities at this time, but given the storm's strength and extent, further reports are possible. This is the first hurricane I've experienced.

There was Ike in 2008, which went further west and crushed Galveston Island in Texas, sending many residents without power while wiping out structures along the famed seawall.

Early indications say it could be worst than hurricanes Katrina or Rita, which both wreaked havoc over the Louisiana coast in 2005. "The COVID-19 is just totally wiping us out", said Shalonda Joseph, 43, a teacher in Port Arthur.

"I'm not going to play with the good lord", Ms Como said. Some were boarding their homes with plyboard all day. Wary of opening mass shelters during a pandemic, Texas officials instead put evacuees in hotels, but Austin stopped taking arrivals before dawn because officials said they ran out of rooms. People staying behind will likely have to wait hours for first responders to reach them. Most of Louisiana's Cameron Parish would be under water at some point, Schott added.

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Even as the storm moves inland, it may generate tornadoes as it goes, and tornado watches are widespread in Louisiana and neighbouring Mississippi.

Maximum sustained winds increased to 150 miles per hour (241 kph) before nightfall, and forecasters said up to 18 inches (46 centimeters) of rain could fall.

The hurricane center has updated its guidance on the ocean water pushed ashore, saying they expect unsurvivable storm surge with large and destructive waves will cause catastrophic damage from Sea Rim State Park, Texas, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana, including Calcasieu and Sabine Lakes.

John Kennedy describes the condition of the state during Hurricane Laura on 'America's Newsroom'.

The projected storm surge could cause the most life-threatening damage, the hurricane center said.

Storm surges could penetrate up to 40 miles inland along parts of the coast, and peak surge coupled with high tide could see water as high as 15 to 20 feet above normal levels, it said. "We are working in close coordination with multiple groups to ensure that residents of the 59 counties in Texas and residents in Louisiana are taken care of".

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