Hurricane Laura crashed into Louisiana today with violent winds of 150 mph, fearing it could flood the low-lying coast with an "insurmountable" 20-foot wave of seawater.
The Category 4 monster landed at 1 a.m. in the strongest winds Louisiana has seen since 1856, warning the storm could penetrate up to 200 miles inland.
Laura reached land near the small town of Cameron, about 30 miles from the Texas border, where officials went door-to-door asking people to escape the storm's path for fear the entire community would be flooded.
Storm surges are at risk as the Gulf Coast is exposed to 10 inches of rain and tide – while tornadoes could form on the edges of the weather system, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The system drew energy from the warm Gulf of Mexico and arrived in "Full Beast Mode" as the strongest hurricane to hit the US so far this year. The effects are expected to be felt in Texas, Missisippi, and Arkansas.
The footage showed pouring rain sideways past streetlights in Lake Charles and roads covered in water closer to the coast as a sudden storm surge threw across cameras designed to capture the effects of the hurricane.
Given the hours of fierce weather, officials said the extent of the destruction would likely not be clear until daylight, when search and rescue missions begin.
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Hurricane Laura began hitting Lake Charles, Louisiana late Wednesday, with strong winds blowing over 100 km / h
The satellite image shows Hurricane Laura, which hit the coasts of Louisiana and Texas at 7:20 p.m. Pacific time on Wednesday
Forecasters have predicted even stronger winds that could tear buildings apart, level trees, and throw vehicles like toys
A lone truck stands in open property during heavy rains from Hurricane Laura in Lake Charles, Louisiana, late Wednesday night
A car near Vermilion Bay is partially submerged in water brought by Hurricane Laura near Abbeville, Louisiana
Palm trees began swaying back and forth in Lake Charles, Louisiana on Wednesday when strong winds hit the city on Wednesday
Storm surges are expected along the Louisiana coast as the state prepares for 10 inches of rain and high tide
At 150 miles an hour, the hurricane's winds were the strongest to land in Louisiana since the last island hurricane in 1856, said Colorado State University meteorologist Philip Klotzbach.
Hurricane Katrina came in at 125 mph, although the 2005 storm, which caused up to 1,800 deaths and $ 125 billion in damage, was worse in terms of pressure.
The winds have put Laura close to the threshold of a Category 5 storm, the highest on the Saffir-Simpson scale and defined as sustained winds of 157 miles per hour or more.
"This is one of the strongest storms to hit this stretch of coast," said David Roth, a forecaster for the National Weather Service.
"We're concerned about the storm surge going so far inland there because it's basically just marshland north of Interstate 10. There's little that can stop the water."
The storm grew almost 87 percent in just 24 hours to what the National Hurricane Center described as "extremely dangerous." It was the mighty hurricane that hit the US so far this year.
"It looks like it's in full animal mode, which you don't want to see if you're in its way," said Brian McNoldy, hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.
The storm surge could penetrate inland between Freeport, Texas and the Mississippi Estuary, raising water levels to as much as 20 feet in parts of Cameron Parish, the NHC said.
People were asked to hide in a “reinforced interior away from windows”, ideally “under a table or other sturdy piece of furniture” in order to protect themselves from the “life-threatening conditions”.
"To believe that there would be a wall of water over two stories on land is very difficult to imagine for most, but that is exactly what will happen," said NWS meteorologist Benjamin Schott at a press conference.
"We don't like to use the word" not viable "and I've never used it before," said Schott of the storm surge.
Forecasters also warned that hurricane-level winds could blow up to 200 miles inland into Shreveport, Louisiana.
The sea water, crowned by white waves, rose threateningly as the monster approached land on Wednesday afternoon.
A major highway in Louisiana already had stagnant water when Laura's outer bands landed with tropical storm winds.
Thousands of sandbags lined the streets in tiny Lafitte, and the wind picked up as shoppers stormed into a grocery store in low-lying Delcambre.
A boarded company is shown on Seawall Boulevard ahead of the Galveston, Texas storm. Laura quickly became a Category 4 hurricane during the day, prompting the National Hurricane Center to label the accompanying storm surge as "non-survivable."
Sandbags were placed outside a shop ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Laura in downtown Lake Charles, Louisiana on Wednesday after residents were told to evacuate or seek shelter
A woman looks at the beach in front of a boarded-up building as the waves of Hurricane Laura roll in in Galveston, Texas Wednesday night
Trung Nguyen steps into his brother's Food Etc supermarket in Abbeville, Louisiana, USA, as Hurricane Laura approached the Gulf Coast
Eliza Boleware loads a shopping cart with essentials into her car at Walmart in Vidalia, Louisiana
A cemetery on Privateer Blvd in Barataria, Louisiana becomes flooded with water as the water level rises before Hurricane Laura lands
Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards feared the dire predictions would not resonate, despite authorities placing more than 620,000 coastal residents under mandatory evacuation orders.
Officials said at least 150 people refused to leave and planned to handle the storm in everything from high-rise buildings to recreational vehicles in Cameron Parish that could be completely covered in seawater.
"It's a very sad situation," said Ashley Buller, assistant director of emergency preparedness. "We did everything we could to encourage them to leave."
Tony Guillory, President of the Resident of the Calcasieu Township Police Jury, said some residents who have not been evacuated have now asked for help but "there is no way to get it".
Guillory was crouched in a government building on Lake Charles that was shaking before the storm early Thursday when phones rang.
Edwards activated the entire state National Guard, and some soldiers took school buses around the neighborhoods near Lake Charles to pick up families.
Temporary shelter was hastily organized outside of the surge zone for evacuated residents, and emergency teams were strategically positioned, state and federal emergency management agencies said.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Pete Gaynor posted pictures of portable shelters at Camp Beauregard, Louisiana, about 115 miles north of the Gulf Coast.
Across the state line in Port Arthur, Texas, a handful of stragglers boarded evacuation buses and city officials announced that two C-130 transport planes were the last chance to take off.
Abbott warned that people who don't get out of the way could be cut off from aid long after the storm, and warned that Laura's power was "unprecedented".
"Your property can be replaced," said Abbott, "your life cannot."
A Category 4 hurricane can render large areas uninhabitable for weeks or months and turn off electricity for as long.
At 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Hurricane Laura was only 7 miles / h from a threatening Category 5 storm before landing
Forecasters say the hurricane is likely to land east of the Louisiana-Texas border later tonight – an area particularly vulnerable to the 20-foot wall of water the hurricane is expected to blast 40 miles inland
Stacy Stewart, a senior hurricane specialist, said, "In some areas we have seen storm surges exceeding 15 feet."
"Insurmountable storm surges with large and devastating waves are causing catastrophic damage from Sea Rim State Park in Texas to Intracoastal City in Louisiana, including Calcasieu and Sabine Lakes," warned the National Hurricane Center (NHC) on Wednesday morning (above)
Flash flood warnings have been issued for several coastal cities in Texas and Louisiana. Tornado watches were also issued to cities in both states
This satellite image shows Hurricane Laura moving in the Gulf of Mexico towards Louisiana and Texas on Wednesday
Hurricane warnings were issued from the San Luis Pass, Texas to Intracoastal City, Louisiana and reached inland for 200 miles. Storm surge warnings were in effect from Freeport, Texas to the Mississippi Estuary.
& # 39; Devastating wind damage will occur near where Laura lands in the hurricane warning area. Well-built homes can suffer major damage, trees can be torn or uprooted, and electricity and water will not be available for days to weeks, "warned officials.
"Some areas will not believe what happened when they wake up Thursday morning," said Stacy Stewart, a senior hurricane specialist.
"What is not knocked down by the wind could easily be knocked down by the rising sea water that pushes well inland."
A National Weather Service meteorologist in Lake Charles, Louisiana warned people living south of Interstate 10 in southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas.
"Your life will be in imminent and grave danger as of tonight if you don't evacuate," said Donald Jones.
In the largest U.S. evacuation since the pandemic began, more than half a million people were ordered to flee an area of the Gulf Coast along the Texas-Louisiana state line on Tuesday.
More than 420,000 residents have been ordered to evacuate the Texan cities of Beaumont, Galveston and Port Arthur.
Another 200,000 have been ordered to leave the low-lying communities of Calcasieu and Cameron in southwest Louisiana, where forecasters said up to 13 feet of storm surge topped by waves could inundate entire communities.
Officials say the storm surges and rain showers could leave an area the size of Rhode Island underwater in Louisiana.
Laura is also expected to shed massive rainfall in a short period of time as she moves inland, causing widespread flash floods in states far from coast.
Lightning flood clocks have been issued for much of Arkansas, and forecasters said heavy rains could hit parts of Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky late Friday and Saturday.
Forecasters in Little Rock, Arkansas said the remnants of the hurricane could cause up to six inches of rain and flash floods that affect homes and businesses.
High winds are expected to hit Mississippi through Thursday evening, while the tornado warnings cover parts of the state as well.
A deputy for the Cameron Parish Sheriff wipes his face as he occupies a roadblock in LA 27 in the rain while residents evacuate Cameron in Lake Charles, Louisiana on Wednesday
Louisiana State Police warned residents to "stay weather conscious" and, if there is a "flood," turn around and find an alternative route
Houston resident Thomas Mezquiti and his son Drake Mezquiti, 13, fish in Galveston, Texas on the Wednesday ahead of Hurricane Laura
A gas terminal is believed to be the first rain band from Hurricane Laura on Wednesday in Lake Charles, Louisiana
Chris Colvert photographed the 1900 Storm Statue in Galveston, Texas on Wednesday as Hurricane Laura approaches the Gulf Coast
Cody Cloud heads back to the beach after photographing the waves on Wednesday in Galveston, Texas as Hurricane Laura moves towards the Gulf Coast
A man walks the beach in Galveston, Texas on Wednesday as Hurricane Laura approaches the Gulf Coast
Josue Blanco (left) and Alex Mendez photograph waves created by Hurricane Laura as they crash into the groin on 37th Street in Galveston, Texas on Wednesday
The Shark Shack Beach Bar and Grill is located on the nearly deserted Strand Street in Galveston as business owners and local residents await Hurricane Laura on Wednesday
On Wednesday morning, people are on board buses to evacuate Lake Charles, Louisiana, from Hurricane Laura
Victoria Nelson with her children Autum Nelson, 2, Shawn Nelson, 7, and Asia Nelson, 6, are waiting Wednesday to board a bus that will evacuate Lake Charles, Louisiana
Christopher Thomas captures one-year-old Taiyren New Year's Eve, who waits Wednesday to get on buses to evacuate Lake Charles, Louisiana
Port Arthur Firefighters check the temperatures of people arriving at the community center where evacuation buses are waiting in Port Arthur, Texas on Wednesday
Evan Raggio and other people buy supplies at the Stine hardware store before Hurricane Laura hits Lake Charles, Louisiana on Wednesday
Marvin Weikal (right) and other people shop for supplies at the Stine hardware store in Lake Charles on Wednesday
David Rosenbaum Jr. helps load plywood into vehicles while people shop for supplies at the Stine hardware store Wednesday ahead of the storm
Lake Charles Fire Department employees Alvin Taylor (right) and Jeremy Harris (left) assist Tim Williams in evacuating Lake Charles, Louisiana, in a van on Wednesday
Houston SPCA staff Linnea Wood (foreground) and Calista Stover are carrying Galveston Island Humane Society pets on a Wings of Rescue plane to Dallas, Fort Worth on Tuesday
Ropes are used to tie a home down ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Laura on Rutherford Beach near Cameron, Louisiana on Wednesday
The coronavirus was also about to be prepared. Angela Jouett, chief of evacuation at Lake Charles, said authorities had made sure evacuees use hand sanitizer, measure their temperatures and keep a 6-foot safe distance.
In the Texas town of La Porte, near Houston, residents were getting basic supplies and a voluntary evacuation was carried out.
"I'm a little nervous, but then I also think, okay, I know I'll be safe in my apartment," said 28-year-old security guard Matthew Jones.
& # 39; I have bread. I have lunch meat, peanut butter, jelly, gallons of water, and snacks. «
Further east, in Port Arthur, a town near the Louisiana border, Jannette Zinos packed her family together to evacuate her.
“We really have to go. I'm just worried the house will go down on us, ”she said.
Another evacueee in Lake Charles, Patricia Como, said other family members had stayed behind but "would not take any chances".
"I'm not going to play with the good lord," said Como.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards tweeted that portions of I-10, the freeway that connects all of the southern United States, were closed prior to Laura's arrival.
He urged the evacuees to drive north to "circumvent the closure and avoid immobile conditions".
Laura's arrival comes just days before Hurricane Katrina, August 29, which broke the levees in New Orleans, flattening much of the Mississippi coast and killing up to 1,800 people in 2005.
Laura has also compromised a center in the US energy industry. The government said 84 percent of oil production in the Gulf and an estimated 61 percent of natural gas production has ceased. Almost 300 platforms were evacuated.
"If Laura moves further west toward Houston, there will be a much bigger problem with the gasoline supply," said oil analyst Andrew Lipow, since refineries typically take two to three weeks to resume full operations.
While oil prices often rise before a major storm when production slows, consumers are unlikely to see large price changes as the pandemic decimated fuel demand
Laura passed Cuba and Hispaniola, where nearly two dozen people were killed, including 20 in Haiti and three in the Dominican Republic.
The deaths reportedly included a 10-year-old girl whose home was hit by a tree and a mother and young son who were knocked down by a collapsing wall.
Yvonne Lancgo vom Lake Charles wartet am Mittwoch darauf, in einen Bus zu steigen, um den Lake Charles in Louisiana zu evakuieren
Mitglieder der Louisiana National Guard bereiten sich auf die Ankunft des Hurrikans Laura am Mittwoch in Lake Charles, Louisiana, vor
Mitglieder der Louisiana National Guard treten vor der Ankunft des Hurrikans Laura in Lake Charles, Louisiana, am Dienstag in der Nähe einer High School auf, als Laura von einem Sturm zu einem Hurrikan aufstieg
Die Nationalgarde von Louisiana hat 98 Hochwasserfahrzeuge und 55 Boote für Reaktionsmaßnahmen mobilisiert
Die Nationalgarde von Louisiana, Sgt. Aaron Dugas, bereitet ein Boot für die Ankunft des Hurrikans Laura am Mittwoch in Lake Charles, Louisiana, vor
Stromausfälle sind in Lake Charles äußerst wahrscheinlich und in den umliegenden Städten wie Little Rock und Memphis möglich
Laut Prognostikern ist in mehreren Städten bis Donnerstagabend Unwetter möglich
The wind gust forecast shows 75mph gusts or more for Lake Charles, Louisiana, early Thursday morning
Reeling from the storm: Residents of Port-au-Prince, Haiti pictured cleaning up a street reduced to rubble from the passage of Tropical Storm Laura on Tuesday
A man removes mud outside of a store in Haiti that was decimated by Laura, then a tropical storm, before it upgraded to a hurricane on Tuesday