Laura's winds tore through Lake Charles, Louisiana all night, ripping roofs from buildings and shattering glass windows, videos posted to Twitter showed.
He urged state agencies to deploy mobile monitors to track pollution following Laura and return the stationary monitors as soon as possible. Isolated tornadoes are also expected from Laura. This is the first hurricane I've experienced.
Authorities implored coastal residents of Texas and Louisiana to evacuate and anxious that not enough had fled by the time winds began picking up.
Appearing on Fox News on Wednesday Mr Abott said: "All the people who could potentially lose their life, if they know - number one in a hurricane - that's to make sure that you save your own life". Listen to local officials. Other evacuees called the state's 211 information line and were directed to Ennis, outside Dallas, only to be told after driving hundreds of kilometres no hotels or vouchers were available.
But Ashley Buller, assistant director of the parish Office of Emergency Preparedness, said officials knew of about 150 people who chose to stay put in structures ranging from seemingly safe elevated homes to recreational vehicles, which could easily be swept away by rushing storm surge.
The mayor of Lake Charles said he suspects the coronavirus pandemic and economic hardship are leading many people to take pause.
BATON ROUGE, La. - Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state is closing Interstate 10 from around the Atchafalaya Bridge outside of Lafayette all the way into part of Texas, because several stretches within that area are expected to flood. "It will just get worse over the next day or so".
Most of Louisiana's Cameron Parish would be under water at some point, het added.
It's "hard enough to get people to evacuate when you don't have fear of COVID", she said.
The National Hurricane Center kept raising its estimate of Laura's storm surge, from 10 feet (3 meters) just days ago to twice that size - a height that forecasters said would be especially deadly.
It rapidly weakened to a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 168km/h as it moved north and battered southwest Louisiana, a marshy region particularly prone to storm surge and flooding.
Hours after the storm passed the Louisiana coastline, high winds and rain persisted, preventing authorities from checking for survivors.
The National Hurricane Center said on Wednesday afternoon that if people delay evacuating, the roads could already be flooded.
In addition to the storm surge flooding, some areas of Louisiana were expected to received up to eighteen inches of rainfall, creating the potential for "widespread flash and urban flooding".
Building up in front of Laura as it pushed through the Gulf was a surge of water that could reach as high as 15 to 20 feet in places, the center said, and extend up to 40 miles inland.
The NHC on Wednesday predicted storm surge would be "unsurvivable" and could penetrate up to 65km inland.
Meanwhile, Indian-American non-profit organisation Sewa International has activated its volunteer teams to assist with preparedness and relief work.
With almost 470,000 homes and businesses without power in the two states, near-constant lightning provided the only light for some.
Below is a selection of some of the storm's impacts from social media.