Laura now forecast to be a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane
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.
Forecasters expect the storm’s top winds to increase to 130 mph before landfall, pushing water onto 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 the Port Arthur, Texas, flood protection system to the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Laura also is expected to dump massive rainfall over a short period of time as it moves inland, causing widespread flash flooding in states far from the coast. Flash flood watches were issued for much of Arkansas, and forecasters said the risk of heavy rainfall will move to parts of Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky late Friday and Saturday.