Hurricane Laura is forecast to rapidly power up into a “catastrophic” Category 4 hurricane, even stronger than previously expected, as it churns toward Texas and Louisiana, gathering wind and water that swirls over much of the Gulf of Mexico.
Satellite images show that Laura has become “a formidable hurricane” in recent hours, threatening to smash homes and sink entire communities. It has undergone a remarkable intensification, “and there are no signs it will stop soon,” the National Hurricane Center said in an update early Wednesday.
“Some areas when they wake up Thursday morning, they’re not going to believe what happened,” Stacy Stewart, a senior hurricane specialist at the hurricane center, said Wednesday.
“We could see storm surge heights more than 15 feet in some areas,” Stewart said. “What doesn’t get blown down by the wind could easily get knocked down by the rising ocean waters pushing well inland.”
Laura has grown nearly 70% in power in just 24 hours, with maximum sustained winds increasing to 110 mph (175 kph) with higher gusts, forecasters said early Wednesday.
“We are expecting widespread power outages, trees down. Homes and businesses will be damaged,” said Donald Jones, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Lake Charles, Louisiana, which is near the bullseye of Laura’s forecast track.
“I’m telling you, this is going to be a very serious situation,” Jones said.