An intensifying Hurricane Laura is growing stronger by the hour Wednesday over the Gulf of Mexico as forecasters warn the powerful system will be a "catastrophic” Category 4 storm before it makes landfall along the Gulf Coast.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami said Wednesday morning that Laura, now a major hurricane, is forecast to "rapidly strengthen" throughout the day, bringing life-threatening storm surge, extreme winds, and flash flooding over eastern Texas and Louisiana.

As of 11 a.m. EDT, the storm is located about 225 miles south-southeast of Lake Charles, La., moving northwest at 15 mph with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph.

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Laura is now a dangerous Category 3 hurricane that continues to intensify in the Gulf of Mexico.

A strengthening Hurricane Laura can be seen over the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020.

A strengthening Hurricane Laura can be seen over the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020. (NOAA/GOES-East)

Satellite images show that Laura has become “a formidable hurricane" in recent hours, threatening to smash homes and sink entire communities.

Laura has undergone a remarkable intensification, growing nearly 70 percent in power in just 24 hours “and there are no signs it will stop soon," the NHC said in a briefing early Wednesday.

The 11 a.m. advisory from the NHC has Laura becoming a Category 4 storm before making landfall overnight.

The forecast track of Hurricane Laura.

The forecast track of Hurricane Laura.

Category 4 storms bring "catastrophic damage," with well-built framed homes at risk of losing most of the roof structure and exterior walls.

"Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas," the NHC states on an overview of damage from similar-sized storms. "Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months."

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Laura is becoming a large hurricane as it strengthens by the hour, with hurricane-force winds extending 70 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extending outward of up to 175 miles.

Hurricane Laura is forecast to make landfall overnight along the Gulf Coast.

Hurricane Laura is forecast to make landfall overnight along the Gulf Coast. (Fox News)

Laura is forecast to make landfall as a major hurricane with winds upwards of 115 mph on the border between Texas and Louisiana early Thursday morning, but conditions are going to go downhill through the day on Wednesday.

Expected winds as Hurricane Laura makes landfall late Wednesday along the Gulf Coast.

Expected winds as Hurricane Laura makes landfall late Wednesday along the Gulf Coast. (Fox News)

Impacts and hazards from the storm will be widespread – not just where the center of the storm makes landfall.   A life-threatening storm surge of 7 to 15 feet will inundate the coast just east of the trajectory. A storm surge warning is in effect from Freeport, Texas to the mouth of the Mississippi River.

According to the NHC, the worst of the storm surge will be along the immediate coast near and to the right of the landfall location, where the surge will be accompanied by "large and destructive waves."

"This storm surge could penetrate up to 30 miles inland from the immediate coastline in southwestern Louisiana and far southeastern Texas," forecasters said.

Hurricane-force winds for several hours will cause damage to homes, businesses, and trees.  Power outages are also expected.

Expected power outages from Hurricane Laura as the storm makes landfall.

Expected power outages from Hurricane Laura as the storm makes landfall. (Fox News)

A hurricane warning is in effect from San Luis Pass, Texas to Intracoastal City in Louisiana.

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Flooding will also be widespread from the hurricane. Anywhere between 5 to 10 inches of rain is expected,  with isolated totals of 12-15 inches which will cause dangerous conditions along the coast and well inland.

Forecast rain amounts from Hurricane Laura as the storm makes landfall late Wednesday.

Forecast rain amounts from Hurricane Laura as the storm makes landfall late Wednesday. (Fox News)

Landfalling tropical systems can spawn tornadoes, and that will be expected over parts of the Lower Mississippi Valley from Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

The tornado threat through late Wednesday due to Hurricane Laura.

The tornado threat through late Wednesday due to Hurricane Laura. (Fox News)

The storm has forced the evacuation of more than half a million people along the Gulf Coast.

Evacuees, from right to left, Tommie McNeil, Elisabeth Pelham, Nota Norris, and a woman who did not want to be identified, wait to board a bus as they evacuate, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Galveston, Texas.

Evacuees, from right to left, Tommie McNeil, Elisabeth Pelham, Nota Norris, and a woman who did not want to be identified, wait to board a bus as they evacuate, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Galveston, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

More than 385,000 residents were told to flee the Texas cities of Beaumont, Galveston, and Port Arthur, and another 200,000 were ordered to leave low-lying Calcasieu Parish in southwestern Louisiana, where forecasters said as much as 13 feet of storm surge topped by waves could submerge whole communities.

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"If you decide to stay, you’re staying on your own,” Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie said.

Workers board up windows at the Galvez Hotel & Spa Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Galveston, Texas, as Hurricane Laura heads toward the Gulf Coast.

Workers board up windows at the Galvez Hotel & Spa Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Galveston, Texas, as Hurricane Laura heads toward the Gulf Coast. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Laura is shaping up to look a lot like Hurricane Rita did 15 years ago when it ravaged southwest Louisiana.

Municipal workers fill sandbags for the elderly and those with disabilities ahead of Hurricane Laura in Crowley, La., Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020.

Municipal workers fill sandbags for the elderly and those with disabilities ahead of Hurricane Laura in Crowley, La., Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

“We’re going to have significant flooding in places that don’t normally see it,” he said.

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Fearing that people would not evacuate in time, Edwards said those in southwest Louisiana need to be where they intend to ride out Laura by noon Wednesday, when the state will start feeling the storm's effects.

Houston SPCA staff members Linnea Wood, foreground, and Calista Stover carry pets from the Galveston Island Humane Society, onto a Wings of Rescue plane headed to Dallas/Fort Worth Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Houston, as Hurricane Laura threatens the Texas coast. 

Houston SPCA staff members Linnea Wood, foreground, and Calista Stover carry pets from the Galveston Island Humane Society, onto a Wings of Rescue plane headed to Dallas/Fort Worth Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Houston, as Hurricane Laura threatens the Texas coast. (Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Officials urged people to stay with relatives or in hotel rooms to avoid spreading coronavirus. Buses were stocked with protective equipment and disinfectant, and they would carry fewer passengers to keep people apart, Texas officials said.

Laura passed Cuba after killing nearly two dozen people on the island of Hispaniola, including 20 in Haiti and three in the Dominican Republic, where it knocked out power and caused intense flooding.

Louisiana residents take precautions ahead of Hurricane LauraLouisiana residents take precautions ahead of Hurricane Laura

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.

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Laura's arrival comes just days before the Aug. 29 anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which breached the levees in New Orleans, flattened much of the Mississippi coast, and killed as many as 1,800 people in 2005. Less than a month later, Hurricane Rita struck southwest Louisiana as a Category 3 storm.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source Link:
https://www.foxnews.com/us/hurricane-laura-expected-to-reach-category-4-strength-with-life-threatening-storm-surge-before-making-landfall

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