Hurricane Laura strengthened Wednesday into “an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane,” The National Hurricane Center said.
Laura is expected to strike Wednesday night into Thursday morning along the Louisiana-Texas border. Forecasters warn of “catastrophic storm surge, extreme winds and flash flooding” and 20 feet (6 meters) of storm surge.
Tropical storm winds Wednesday afternoon reached the coast of Louisiana where water levels started to rise. An observing site at Eugene Island measured sustained winds of 39 mph (63 kph) and a gust of 64 mph (104 kph).
Laura’s well-formed eye was 200 miles (320 kilometers) south southeast of Lake Charles, Louisiana and Port Arthur, Texas, early Wednesday afternoon.
Laura is predicted to reach at least 145 mph (233 kph) winds, but may weaken ever so slightly before landfall.
GALVESTON, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott implored residents who hadn’t evacuated ahead of the storm on Wednesday to do so.
Abbott said storm surge was going to be a big problem and was expected to rise 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.5 meters) in the Jefferson County area.
Resources that have so far been deployed in the state ahead of the storm included: 400 buses, 38 aircraft, 82 boats, 202 high profile vehicles and 60 ambulances, the governor said.
More than 5,000 people who have evacuated have already been sheltered, many of them in hotels.
Earlier Wednesday, officials in Austin said the city had run out of free hotel rooms for evacuees and had started to send families fleeing the storm to a shelter nearly 200 miles (322 kilometers) farther north.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said Wednesday the state’s Department of Emergency Management is dispatching a 35-member search-and-rescue team to Louisiana to help respond to the incoming storm.
The team includes personnel from several fire and police stations across northeast Oklahoma, as well as vehicles, boats and other emergency equipment.
Earlier this week, a five-person support team deployed from Oklahoma to Louisiana to help with forward operations, including response coordination, evacuation and shelter planning, and search-and-rescue coordination, Stitt said.