It's been several hours since Hurricane Laura made landfall, but the storm is still delivering devastating gusts of wind to inland Louisiana.
In its 4 a.m. CT update, the National Hurricane Center downgraded Laura from a Category 4 hurricane to a Category 3 hurricane. But the storm is still delivering maximum sustained winds of 120 mph, and "unsurvivable storm surge."
According to the NHC, Laura will continue to deliver hurricane-force winds to central and northern Louisiana throughout the day on Thursday. The storm will then move to the northeast, bringing heavy rain to the Missouri Valley and Ohio Valley regions on Friday and through the weekend.
Laura made landfall near Cameron, Louisiana at about 1 a.m. CT on Wednesday as an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm with 150 mph sustained winds. The Category 4 rating makes Laura is the strongest hurricane to make landfall in Louisiana in at least 60 years, according to the National Weather Service.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Wednesday that "Laura is expected to produce catastrophic impacts from the coast to well inland; life-threatening storm surge, extreme winds, torrential rain, flooding, and tornadoes."
On early Thursday morning, NOAA's Coastal Inundation Dashboard showed storm surge warnings all across Louisiana's shoreline. The dashboard also noted that readings from Calcasieu Pass — a tributary near Cameron that flows into the Gulf of Mexico — showed that surge was recorded at about 9 feet as of 1:30 a.m. CT.
"Take the next few hours and get your family to a safe location," Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a Wednesday afternoon press conference. He reminded residents that during a hurricane, it is hard to respond to emergency calls right away for people who decide to stay behind.
The National Hurricane Center issued an "extreme wind warning" for areas of Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana at about 11 p.m. ET on Wednesday. A fairly new and rarely-used warning, it's issued for areas expected to see winds of 115 mph or higher. Residents in the affected areas are urged to find a low-lying interior room and protect their heads.
An extreme wind warning is in effect for Beaumont TX, Lake Charles LA, Port Arthur TX until 1:00 AM CDT for extremely dangerous hurricane winds. Treat these imminent extreme winds as if a tornado was approaching and move immediately to an interior room or shelter NOW!. pic.twitter.com/Kepii38Fff
— NWS Lake Charles (@NWSLakeCharles) August 27, 2020
As of 8 p.m. CT, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development announced that part of Interstate 10 was closing ahead of Hurricane Laura.
Officials said they were closing the westbound lanes west of the Atchafalaya Bridge outside of Lafayette all the way into the Texas/Louisiana state line because several stretches are expected to flood.
The National Weather Service said that storm surge could reach 16 to 20 feet at its peak. The surge could also reach 40 miles inland, government forecasters warn.
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) August 27, 2020
"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," the National Hurricane Center warned. "This surge could penetrate up to 40 miles inland from the immediate coastline, and floodwaters will not fully recede for several days after the storm."
Widespread flash flooding along small streams, urban areas, and roadways is expected to begin this afternoon into Thursday from far eastern Texas, across Louisiana and Arkansas. This will also lead to minor to isolated moderate freshwater river flooding. #Laura pic.twitter.com/z71y3icU29
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) August 26, 2020
NHC says on the forecast track, Laura should approach the upper Texas and southwest Louisiana coasts Wednesday afternoon and move inland near those areas Wednesday night or Thursday morning.
For this #WednesdayMorning, take a look at #HurricaneLaura with @NOAA's #GOESEast satellite as the hurricane's convection bursts with lightning. As of 8 a.m. EDT, #Laura had winds of 115 mph and was rapidly intensifying in the Gulf of Mexico.
— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) August 26, 2020
According to the NHC, hurricanes are considered major when they reach Category 3 or above because of the potential impact to life and property.
Damage predicted from a Category 4 storm, according to the NHC, include: "Houses can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and possibly some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles will topple. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months."
Entergy, one of Louisiana's largest electricity utilities, is already reporting hundreds of outages as of 1 a.m. CT on Thursday. PowerOutage.us reports that more than 270,000 in the state are without power, and another 65,000 in Texas are also experiencing outages.
Laura is closing in on the US after killing nearly two dozen people, including 20 in Haiti and three in the Dominican Republic, where it knocked out power and caused flooding.