The weather agency indicated that Laura has reached maximum sustained wind speeds of 140 miles per hour and that the cyclone is moving toward the U.S. coastline at a pace of 16 miles per hour.
At the current rate, Laura is expected to be the most destructive storm this hurricane season and is the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in the state since Hurricane Harvey in 2017. A storm surge warning was in effect for the area between Freeport, Texas and the mouth of the Mississippi River, with a surge of between 15 and 20 feet forecast for the area between Johnson Bayou and the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge.
Laura is becoming a major hurricane as it grows stronger for hours, with hurricane-force winds extending 70 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extending outward up to 175 miles.
"Unsurvivable storm surge with large and destructive waves will cause catastrophic damage from Sea Rim State Park, Texas, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana, including Calcasieu and Sabine Lakes".
When Hurricane Laura makes landfall, the major storm will bring with it flash flooding, extreme winds and unsurvivable storm surge, the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday.
National Hurricane Center (NHC) Director Ken Graham told reporters the storm is expected to pose a "life-threatening situation", Yahoo News reported. Because of the power of this storm, if you are unable or do not get in harm's way, the reality is, for nearly a 24-hour time period, there will be no ability for rescuers or aiders to get in and assist you in any way.
Voluntary evacuations have been recommended in several other areas, as listed on the Texas Hurricane Center from the governor's office alongside other resources for those affected.
Privately, you may be wondering (and you wouldn't be alone): "What exactly is storm surge?"
As well, a few tornadoes are expected Wednesday evening in Louisiana, far southeast Texas, and southwestern Mississippi.
Authorities have been telling residents along the Texas and Louisiana coasts to evacuate, but now are concerned not enough people have left, according to the Associated Press. And that storm surge could continue inland for about 30 miles. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles will topple. "Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months".