One of the strongest hurricanes ever to strike the U.S. pounded the Gulf Coast on Thursday, shearing off roofs and killing a least four people, as Laura barreled across Louisiana and maintained ferocious strength while carving a destructive path hundreds of miles inland.A full assessment of the damage wrought by the Category 4 system was likely to take days. But initial reports offered hope that Laura, despite leaving entire neighborhoods in ruins and more than 875,000 people without power, was not the annihilating menace that forecasters had feared.“It is clear that we did not sustain and suffer the absolute, catastrophic damage that we thought was likely,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “But we we have sustained a tremendous amount of damage,” he said.Here are the latest updates on Laura (all times local) 3 p.m.Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said state officials now know of four deaths tied to Hurricane Laura.The deaths were all caused by trees falling on residences, Edwards said. None were on the coast, having happened in Vernon, Jackson and Acadia parishes. One death in Jackson in north Louisiana demonstrated the power of the storm, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm early Thursday, and traveled farther inland.Edwards said the current priority is search and rescue, followed by efforts to find hotel or motel rooms for those who have lost their homes.Hotel rooms are needed because conventional communal shelters pose a risk for spreading the coronavirus, he said.Edwards said storm surge was measured in the range of 9 feet to 12 feet — bad but far less than the 20 feet that had been forecast. He said that has led him to hope that there will be less water damage to homes close to the coast, and that damaged homes can be made habitable more quickly.2:30 p.m.Tropical Storm Laura is thrashing parts of southern Arkansas with powerful winds and heavy rainfall as the storm system lunges its way through the state after battering the Louisiana Gulf Coast.Downed trees and structural damage were reported in some parts of Arkansas at midday Thursday, and more than 30,000 homes and businesses in the state were without electricity.The National Weather Service says the damaging winds and torrential rains will be in the Little Rock area later Thursday afternoon and evening. Many schools canceled classes or had early dismissals in anticipation of Laura’s arrival.Forecasters say there’s also the risk of isolated tornadoes in the eastern part of the state.—-2 p.m. President Donald Trump says he will visit the Gulf Coast this weekend to tour damage from one of the fiercest hurricanes to hit the United States. Trump said he would visit Texas and Louisiana on Saturday or Sunday to survey the destruction caused by Laura, which Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said has killed at least four people.Laura slammed the Gulf Coast early Thursday and roared through Louisiana. The bulk of the damage was reported in Louisiana. The storm barreled over Lake Charles, Louisiana, an industrial and casino city of 80,000 people.Extensive property damage has been reported; a floating casino that came unmoored hit a bridge.Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told Trump that the situation on the ground “is fluid and challenging,” but the Federal Emergency Management Agency is responding.The hurricane’s top wind speed of 150 mph put it among the most powerful on record in the U.S.1:30 p.m. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says his state appeared to have made it through Hurricane Laura with minimal or no loss of life, which he said was a “miracle.”Abbott on Thursday described seeing roofs sheared off buildings and uprooted trees following aerial tour of the damage near the state border with Louisiana. The storm surge that was predicted to be as high as 10 feet before landfall wound up being closer to 3 feet, he said.And nearly 12 hours after landfall, Abbott says there were still no confirmed fatalities.Abbott said about 8,500 people were served in Texas shelters. He said the state minimized potential loss of life because residents in the storm’s path heeded local advance warnings to evacuate. 1 p.m.Greg Langley, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, said emergency crews in the Lake Charles area were working a fire at a chemical plant that handles chlorine for swimming pools, in an emergency that had area residents under a shelter-in-place directive.Monitors from agency workers in the area so far have failed to pick up indications of a chlorine leak, Langley said.State police, firefighters and other emergency workers were responding, and an Environmental Protection Agency plane was monitoring overhead, Langley said.Storm damage meant crews had difficulty clearing downed utility equipment and trees and other wreckage to reach the site.Langley said he knew of no other major industrial threats from the storm so far. Louisiana state environmental officials would be going up into the air over the storm area when cleared by aviation officials, looking for signs of any other industry fires or leaks, he said. NoonLaura has weakened to a tropical storm as it moves closer to Shreveport, Louisiana.The hurricane made landfall in southwestern Louisiana as a Category 4 storm. The extremely powerful storm made landfall in Cameron, Louisiana, with 150 mph winds just before 1 a.m. Thursday.It’s the strongest hurricane to make a Louisiana landfall since 1856.The storm continues to push northward but is weakening, with winds at 70 mph as of noon.It is 50 miles east south-east from Shreveport.More than 700,000 people in Louisiana and Texas were without power Thursday afternoon, according to the website PowerOutage.Us, which tracks utility reports.National Weather Service officials said the remnants of Hurricane Laura could spawn tornadoes and cause flash flooding in parts of Arkansas and Tennessee. 10 a.m.Hurricane Laura continues to weaken as it makes its way inland. As of 10 a.m. central, the storm is a Category 1 storm with 75 mph winds. The National Hurricane Center says damaging winds and flooding rainfall are spreading inland over central and northern portions of Louisiana. High water levels persist along portions of the Gulf Coast.Reports are coming in from people who rode out the storm.Brett Geymann lives in Moss Bluff, just north of Lake Charles, and said the eye of the storm passed directly over them. He says his house survived but every other building, structure and tree on his property is gone.Video above: Flooding in Lafourche ParishGeymann says his family’s OK but “there’s destruction all around” them.He says “It looks like 1,000 tornadoes” came through, with some houses “totally gone.”Drone video in the Lake Charles area shows water surrounding homes with large parts of their roofs peeled off, hotels with rooms exposed and giant trees uprooted.9:30 a.m.Hurricane Laura is headed toward Arkansas, where an unusual tropical storm warning has been issued for much of the state.The storm is hitting during the state’s first week back at public school since March. Many schools in the southern half of Arkansas opted to cancel classes Thursday or dismiss early because of the storm.Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared an emergency and set aside $250,000 for the state to prepare for the hurricane’s impact. Hutchinson said the state will have search and rescue teams on standby.Laura is now a Category 1 hurricane but still blowing hard enough to be deadly. The first reported death, of a girl whose house was hit by a tree, was in Leesburg, more than 100 miles inland from the coast. 8 a.m.Louisiana has reported its first Hurricane Laura-related storm death, and according to Gov. John Bel Edwards, it was a 14-year-old girl.His deputy chief of staff tweeted the report of the fatality:According to Edwards, the girl died when a tree fell on their home.Edwards said in an interview on MSNBC that he expects more storm-related fatalities.The storm continues to push northward but is weakening, with winds at 100 mph. It is 80 miles south south-east from Shreveport.7 a.m.Forecasters say Laura remained a Category 2 hurricane about 6 hours after making landfall.The National Hurricane Center said the hurricane still packed sustained winds of 100 mph, according to an update Thursday morning. That makes it a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.Its center was about 20 miles north of Fort Polk, Louisiana.__6 a.m.Officials in multiple areas hit hard by Hurricane Laura are unsure when rescuers will reach people affected by the storm.In Holly Beach, Louisiana, many residents raised the level of their homes after Hurricane Rita, but there were fears that the houses still were not high enough to withstand up to 20 feet of storm surge, Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”“We’re hopeful those people got out, but as soon as it’s safe for the first responders to get in there, we’re hopeful that we don’t find people that didn’t make it,” Nungesser said Thursday.Dick Gremillion, director for Calcasieu Parish Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said his office hasn’t been able to start assessing the damage yet because of high winds and the need for daylight.But he cited the tide gauge further south in Cameron Parish, which appears to have been less than the predicted 20 feet of surge.The Louisiana National Guard has 222 high-water vehicles and 65 boats staged across south Louisiana, for search and rescue efforts when it’s safe to do so.FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor urged people to stay home if they were safe.“Stay in your home. Don’t go out sightseeing. You put yourself, your family at risk and you put first responders at risk. … stay home,” he said during an interview on CBS’ “This Morning.”___5 a.m.Power companies are reporting that nearly 470,000 homes and businesses were without electricity early Thursday in Louisiana and Texas.That’s according to the website PowerOutage.US, which tracks utility reports.New Orleans-based Entergy said shortly before the storm struck that the hardest-hit areas may experience outages for weeks.The company says it has crews coming from 20 states to help, including some from as far away as Wisconsin and Virginia.___4 a.m.The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Laura has weakened to a Category 3 hurricane with top winds of 120 mph a few hours after making landfall.It’s centered about 30 miles north-northwest of Lake Charles and moving north at 15 mph. Hurricane-force winds and damaging wind gusts are spreading well inland into parts of eastern Texas and western Louisiana.The hurricane center has updated its guidance on the ocean water pushed ashore, saying they expect 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.Forecasters predict the highest surge, up to 20 feet, along a stretch of Louisiana coastline that includes Johnson Bayou and the towns of Holly Beach and Cameron.Forecasters say this surge could penetrate up to 40 miles inland from the immediate coastline, and flood waters won’t fully recede for days.3 a.m.Hurricane Laura continues to push inland, moving steadily across southwestern Louisiana. Maximum winds have dropped again, maintaining powerful gusts at 130 mph as the storm moves north at 15 mph. The storm is currently about 15 miles from Lake Charles, Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center said.2 a.m.Hurricane Laura continued moving inland after making landfall along the southwestern Louisiana Thursday morning. Winds unexpectedly lowered slightly over land, dropping to maximum sustained gusts of 140 mph as the storm headed north, just 10 miles southwest of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and 40 miles east of Port Arthur, Texas.The National Hurricane Center described the storm as “extremely dangerous,” urging local residents to seek shelter immediately.”TAKE COVER NOW!” a release read. “Treat these imminent extreme winds as if a tornado was approaching and move immediately to the safe room in your shelter. Take action now to protect your life!”The storm is expected to continue up the Louisiana-Texas border and before heading northeast as it loses speed.1 a.m.Hurricane Laura made landfall along the U.S. coastline Thursday morning around 1 a.m., moving in-land near Cameron, Louisiana, according to the National Hurricane Center.The Category 4 storm held maximum sustained winds of 150 mph as it headed north at 15 mph. It was located about 30 miles south-southwest of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and about 40 miles east of Port Arthur, Texas.The National Hurricane Center warns storm surge from Hurricane Laura could reach an “unsurvivable” 20 feet in parts of Texas and Louisiana, capable of engulfing entire communities.The storm grew nearly 87% in power in just 24 hours to a size the National Hurricane Center called “extremely dangerous.” Drawing energy from the warm Gulf of Mexico, the system was arrived during high tide as the most powerful hurricane to strike the U.S. so far this year.The NHC said the hurricane will be disastrous, causing catastrophic storm surge, extreme winds and flash flooding along the northwest Gulf Coast.On the forecast track, the center of Laura is expected to move up the Texas-Louisiana state line, weakening to a Category 2 storm by 7 a.m. Thursday.Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has activated the state’s entire National Guard, expecting widespread devastation across the hurricane’s path.A Category 4 hurricane can render wide areas uninhabitable for weeks or months and knock out power for just as long.Becky Clements, 56, didn’t take chances; she evacuated from Lake Charles after hearing that it could take a direct hit. With memories of the destruction almost 15 years ago by Hurricane Rita, she and her family found an Airbnb hundreds of miles inland.“The devastation afterward in our town and that whole corner of the state was just awful,” Clements recalled Wednesday. “Whole communities were washed away, never to exist again.”Forecasters expected a weakened Laura to move northward through Louisiana and cause widespread flash flooding in states far from the coast. An unusual tropical storm warning was issued as far north as Little Rock, where forecasters expected gusts of 50 mph and a deluge of rain through Friday. After turning eastward and reaching the Atlantic Ocean, it could again become a tropical storm and threaten the Northeast.Laura hit the U.S. after killing nearly two dozen people on the island of Hispaniola, including 20 in Haiti and three in the Dominican Republic, where it knocked out power and caused intense flooding.Laura was the seventh named storm to strike the U.S. this year, setting a new record for U.S. landfalls by the end of August. The old record was six in 1886 and 1916, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

One of the strongest hurricanes ever to strike the U.S. pounded the Gulf Coast on Thursday, shearing off roofs and killing a least four people, as Laura barreled across Louisiana and maintained ferocious strength while carving a destructive path hundreds of miles inland.

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A full assessment of the damage wrought by the Category 4 system was likely to take days. But initial reports offered hope that Laura, despite leaving entire neighborhoods in ruins and more than 875,000 people without power, was not the annihilating menace that forecasters had feared.

“It is clear that we did not sustain and suffer the absolute, catastrophic damage that we thought was likely,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “But we we have sustained a tremendous amount of damage,” he said.

Here are the latest updates on Laura (all times local)

3 p.m.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said state officials now know of four deaths tied to Hurricane Laura.

The deaths were all caused by trees falling on residences, Edwards said. None were on the coast, having happened in Vernon, Jackson and Acadia parishes. One death in Jackson in north Louisiana demonstrated the power of the storm, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm early Thursday, and traveled farther inland.

Edwards said the current priority is search and rescue, followed by efforts to find hotel or motel rooms for those who have lost their homes.

Hotel rooms are needed because conventional communal shelters pose a risk for spreading the coronavirus, he said.

Edwards said storm surge was measured in the range of 9 feet to 12 feet — bad but far less than the 20 feet that had been forecast. He said that has led him to hope that there will be less water damage to homes close to the coast, and that damaged homes can be made habitable more quickly.

2:30 p.m.

Tropical Storm Laura is thrashing parts of southern Arkansas with powerful winds and heavy rainfall as the storm system lunges its way through the state after battering the Louisiana Gulf Coast.

Downed trees and structural damage were reported in some parts of Arkansas at midday Thursday, and more than 30,000 homes and businesses in the state were without electricity.

The National Weather Service says the damaging winds and torrential rains will be in the Little Rock area later Thursday afternoon and evening. Many schools canceled classes or had early dismissals in anticipation of Laura’s arrival.

Forecasters say there’s also the risk of isolated tornadoes in the eastern part of the state.

—-

2 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he will visit the Gulf Coast this weekend to tour damage from one of the fiercest hurricanes to hit the United States.

Buildings and homes are flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, in Cameron, La.

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Buildings and homes are flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, in Cameron, La.

Trump said he would visit Texas and Louisiana on Saturday or Sunday to survey the destruction caused by Laura, which Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said has killed at least four people.

Laura slammed the Gulf Coast early Thursday and roared through Louisiana. The bulk of the damage was reported in Louisiana. The storm barreled over Lake Charles, Louisiana, an industrial and casino city of 80,000 people.

Extensive property damage has been reported; a floating casino that came unmoored hit a bridge.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told Trump that the situation on the ground “is fluid and challenging,” but the Federal Emergency Management Agency is responding.

The hurricane’s top wind speed of 150 mph put it among the most powerful on record in the U.S.

1:30 p.m.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says his state appeared to have made it through Hurricane Laura with minimal or no loss of life, which he said was a “miracle.”

Abbott on Thursday described seeing roofs sheared off buildings and uprooted trees following aerial tour of the damage near the state border with Louisiana. The storm surge that was predicted to be as high as 10 feet before landfall wound up being closer to 3 feet, he said.

And nearly 12 hours after landfall, Abbott says there were still no confirmed fatalities.

Abbott said about 8,500 people were served in Texas shelters. He said the state minimized potential loss of life because residents in the storm’s path heeded local advance warnings to evacuate.

1 p.m.

Greg Langley, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, said emergency crews in the Lake Charles area were working a fire at a chemical plant that handles chlorine for swimming pools, in an emergency that had area residents under a shelter-in-place directive.

Monitors from agency workers in the area so far have failed to pick up indications of a chlorine leak, Langley said.

State police, firefighters and other emergency workers were responding, and an Environmental Protection Agency plane was monitoring overhead, Langley said.

Storm damage meant crews had difficulty clearing downed utility equipment and trees and other wreckage to reach the site.

Langley said he knew of no other major industrial threats from the storm so far. Louisiana state environmental officials would be going up into the air over the storm area when cleared by aviation officials, looking for signs of any other industry fires or leaks, he said.

Noon

Laura has weakened to a tropical storm as it moves closer to Shreveport, Louisiana.

The hurricane made landfall in southwestern Louisiana as a Category 4 storm. The extremely powerful storm made landfall in Cameron, Louisiana, with 150 mph winds just before 1 a.m. Thursday.

It’s the strongest hurricane to make a Louisiana landfall since 1856.

The storm continues to push northward but is weakening, with winds at 70 mph as of noon.

It is 50 miles east south-east from Shreveport.

More than 700,000 people in Louisiana and Texas were without power Thursday afternoon, according to the website PowerOutage.Us, which tracks utility reports.

National Weather Service officials said the remnants of Hurricane Laura could spawn tornadoes and cause flash flooding in parts of Arkansas and Tennessee.




10 a.m.

Hurricane Laura continues to weaken as it makes its way inland. As of 10 a.m. central, the storm is a Category 1 storm with 75 mph winds. The National Hurricane Center says

damaging winds and flooding rainfall are spreading inland over central and northern portions of Louisiana. High water levels persist along portions of the Gulf Coast.

Reports are coming in from people who rode out the storm.

Brett Geymann lives in Moss Bluff, just north of Lake Charles, and said the eye of the storm passed directly over them. He says his house survived but every other building, structure and tree on his property is gone.

Debris is seen near a business on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, in Lake Charles, La., in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura.

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Debris is seen near a business on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, in Lake Charles, La., in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura.

Video above: Flooding in Lafourche Parish

Geymann says his family’s OK but “there’s destruction all around” them.

He says “It looks like 1,000 tornadoes” came through, with some houses “totally gone.”

Drone video in the Lake Charles area shows water surrounding homes with large parts of their roofs peeled off, hotels with rooms exposed and giant trees uprooted.

9:30 a.m.

Hurricane Laura is headed toward Arkansas, where an unusual tropical storm warning has been issued for much of the state.

The storm is hitting during the state’s first week back at public school since March. Many schools in the southern half of Arkansas opted to cancel classes Thursday or dismiss early because of the storm.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared an emergency and set aside $250,000 for the state to prepare for the hurricane’s impact. Hutchinson said the state will have search and rescue teams on standby.

Laura is now a Category 1 hurricane but still blowing hard enough to be deadly. The first reported death, of a girl whose house was hit by a tree, was in Leesburg, more than 100 miles inland from the coast.

8 a.m.
Louisiana has reported its first Hurricane Laura-related storm death, and according to Gov. John Bel Edwards, it was a 14-year-old girl.

His deputy chief of staff tweeted the report of the fatality:

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According to Edwards, the girl died when a tree fell on their home.

Edwards said in an interview on MSNBC that he expects more storm-related fatalities.

The storm continues to push northward but is weakening, with winds at 100 mph. It is 80 miles south south-east from Shreveport.

7 a.m.

Forecasters say Laura remained a Category 2 hurricane about 6 hours after making landfall.

The National Hurricane Center said the hurricane still packed sustained winds of 100 mph, according to an update Thursday morning. That makes it a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Its center was about 20 miles north of Fort Polk, Louisiana.

Down power lines stretch across a road in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, in Sabine Pass, Texas.

AP Photo/Eric Gay

Down power lines stretch across a road in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, in Sabine Pass, Texas.

__

6 a.m.

Officials in multiple areas hit hard by Hurricane Laura are unsure when rescuers will reach people affected by the storm.

In Holly Beach, Louisiana, many residents raised the level of their homes after Hurricane Rita, but there were fears that the houses still were not high enough to withstand up to 20 feet of storm surge, Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“We’re hopeful those people got out, but as soon as it’s safe for the first responders to get in there, we’re hopeful that we don’t find people that didn’t make it,” Nungesser said Thursday.

Dick Gremillion, director for Calcasieu Parish Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said his office hasn’t been able to start assessing the damage yet because of high winds and the need for daylight.

But he cited the tide gauge further south in Cameron Parish, which appears to have been less than the predicted 20 feet of surge.

The Louisiana National Guard has 222 high-water vehicles and 65 boats staged across south Louisiana, for search and rescue efforts when it’s safe to do so.

FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor urged people to stay home if they were safe.

“Stay in your home. Don’t go out sightseeing. You put yourself, your family at risk and you put first responders at risk. … stay home,” he said during an interview on CBS’ “This Morning.”

___

5 a.m.

Power companies are reporting that nearly 470,000 homes and businesses were without electricity early Thursday in Louisiana and Texas.

That’s according to the website PowerOutage.US, which tracks utility reports.

New Orleans-based Entergy said shortly before the storm struck that the hardest-hit areas may experience outages for weeks.

The company says it has crews coming from 20 states to help, including some from as far away as Wisconsin and Virginia.

___

4 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Laura has weakened to a Category 3 hurricane with top winds of 120 mph a few hours after making landfall.

It’s centered about 30 miles north-northwest of Lake Charles and moving north at 15 mph. Hurricane-force winds and damaging wind gusts are spreading well inland into parts of eastern Texas and western Louisiana.

A building that was damaged overnight by Hurricane Laura stands in Lake Charles, La., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020.

Stephen Jones via AP

A building that was damaged overnight by Hurricane Laura stands in Lake Charles, La., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020.

The hurricane center has updated its guidance on the ocean water pushed ashore, saying they expect 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.

Forecasters predict the highest surge, up to 20 feet, along a stretch of Louisiana coastline that includes Johnson Bayou and the towns of Holly Beach and Cameron.

Forecasters say this surge could penetrate up to 40 miles inland from the immediate coastline, and flood waters won’t fully recede for days.

3 a.m.

Hurricane Laura continues to push inland, moving steadily across southwestern Louisiana. Maximum winds have dropped again, maintaining powerful gusts at 130 mph as the storm moves north at 15 mph.

The storm is currently about 15 miles from Lake Charles, Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center said.

2 a.m.

Hurricane Laura continued moving inland after making landfall along the southwestern Louisiana Thursday morning. Winds unexpectedly lowered slightly over land, dropping to maximum sustained gusts of 140 mph as the storm headed north, just 10 miles southwest of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and 40 miles east of Port Arthur, Texas.

The National Hurricane Center described the storm as “extremely dangerous,” urging local residents to seek shelter immediately.

“TAKE COVER NOW!” a release read. “Treat these imminent extreme winds as if a tornado was approaching and move immediately to the safe room in your shelter. Take action now to protect your life!”

The storm is expected to continue up the Louisiana-Texas border and before heading northeast as it loses speed.

1 a.m.

Hurricane Laura made landfall along the U.S. coastline Thursday morning around 1 a.m., moving in-land near Cameron, Louisiana, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The Category 4 storm held maximum sustained winds of 150 mph as it headed north at 15 mph. It was located about 30 miles south-southwest of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and about 40 miles east of Port Arthur, Texas.

The National Hurricane Center warns storm surge from Hurricane Laura could reach an “unsurvivable” 20 feet in parts of Texas and Louisiana, capable of engulfing entire communities.

The storm grew nearly 87% in power in just 24 hours to a size the National Hurricane Center called “extremely dangerous.” Drawing energy from the warm Gulf of Mexico, the system was arrived during high tide as the most powerful hurricane to strike the U.S. so far this year.

The NHC said the hurricane will be disastrous, causing catastrophic storm surge, extreme winds and flash flooding along the northwest Gulf Coast.

On the forecast track, the center of Laura is expected to move up the Texas-Louisiana state line, weakening to a Category 2 storm by 7 a.m. Thursday.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has activated the state’s entire National Guard, expecting widespread devastation across the hurricane’s path.

A Category 4 hurricane can render wide areas uninhabitable for weeks or months and knock out power for just as long.

Becky Clements, 56, didn’t take chances; she evacuated from Lake Charles after hearing that it could take a direct hit. With memories of the destruction almost 15 years ago by Hurricane Rita, she and her family found an Airbnb hundreds of miles inland.

“The devastation afterward in our town and that whole corner of the state was just awful,” Clements recalled Wednesday. “Whole communities were washed away, never to exist again.”

Forecasters expected a weakened Laura to move northward through Louisiana and cause widespread flash flooding in states far from the coast. An unusual tropical storm warning was issued as far north as Little Rock, where forecasters expected gusts of 50 mph and a deluge of rain through Friday. After turning eastward and reaching the Atlantic Ocean, it could again become a tropical storm and threaten the Northeast.

Laura hit the U.S. after killing nearly two dozen people on the island of Hispaniola, including 20 in Haiti and three in the Dominican Republic, where it knocked out power and caused intense flooding.

Laura was the seventh named storm to strike the U.S. this year, setting a new record for U.S. landfalls by the end of August. The old record was six in 1886 and 1916, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

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