Hurricane Laura won’t be barging through the Queen City, but she’ll make her presence known.
National Weather Service Senior Meteorologist Mike Edmonston said the bulk of the storm will affect the Delta region Thursday as the hurricane moves westward, but it could start sometime Wednesday.
Based on Tuesday’s weather outlook, Washington County is anticipated to receive some flooding and storms with a potential for tornadoes.
“There is a limited flood threat in the Delta starting Wednesday night that continues all through Thursday and it may last until Thursday evening,” he said.
The forecast is liable to change multiple times in a day, Edmonston said, so it is uncertain what exactly will happen come Thursday.
“Right now, the Delta is expecting a limited wind threat too, sustaining winds of 20-25 miles per hour across much of the region, with gusts capable of reaching up to 30-40 miles per hour. Anytime you reach those high of winds, you can expect to see weak trees, limbs and stuff like that fall. There may be a sporadic power outage or two.”
With the strong winds, he said, comes a marginal risk for tornadoes. “We’re looking for a potential of tornadoes to develop during the night time Wednesday continuing into Thursday,” he said, also noting any rain or thunder that went through the region Tuesday were a result of Hurricane Marco that arrived before Laura.
Washington County Emergency Management Director David Burford on Tuesday said they are closely watching the storm developments.
As of Tuesday afternoon, they weren’t anticipating severe weather or the need to utilize the emergency shelter.
“Unless the track changes or it looks like we’re going to get a lot of rain or wind, there’s really not a whole lot we can do,” he said.
Should flooding become severe enough for people living west of the Delta, Burford said they will open the emergency shelter at the Washington County Convention Center as they have done in the past.
“We talked to the American Red Cross (Monday) and there’s nothing in the works right now but we’re going to keep an eye on Laura and see what happens,” Burford said.
On the coast
More than half a million people were ordered to evacuate the Gulf Coast on Tuesday as Laura strengthened into a hurricane that forecasters said could slam Texas and Louisiana with ferocious winds, heavy flooding and the power to push seawater miles inland.
The National Hurricane Center projected that Laura would draw energy from warm Gulf waters and become a Category 3 hurricane before making landfall late Wednesday or early Thursday, with winds of around 115 mph.
“The waters are warm enough everywhere there to support a major hurricane, Category 3 or even higher. The waters are very warm where the storm is now and will be for the entire path up until the Gulf Coast,” National Hurricane Center Deputy Director Ed Rappaport said.
Ocean water was expected to push onto land along more than 450 miles of coast from Texas to Mississippi.
Hurricane warnings were issued from San Luis Pass, Texas, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana, and storm surge warnings from Port Arthur, Texas, flood protection system to the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Officials urged people to stay with relatives or in hotel rooms to avoid spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.
As of Tuesday morning, Laura was 585 miles southeast of Lake Charles, Louisiana, traveling northwest at 16 mph. Its peak winds were 75 mph.
The hurricane center nudged its forecast track a bit farther west as computer simulations pushed the storm closer to Texas.
As much as 15 inches of rain could fall in some parts of Louisiana, said Donald Jones, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Lake Charles, Louisiana — near the bullseye of Laura’s projected path.
Marco, a system that approached land ahead of Laura, weakened into a remnant just off Louisiana’s shore on Tuesday. Satellite images showed a disorganized cluster of clouds, what meteorologists call “a naked swirl,” Jones said.