Laura made landfall in Louisiana near the Texas border early Thursday as a major hurricane, packing wind speeds of 150 mph and the threat of catastrophic storm surge.
The “extremely dangerous” storm brought with it extreme winds and flash flooding when it made landfall near Cameron in southwestern Louisiana about 1 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET), the National Hurricane Center said.
The storm is one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever make landfall in the United States. The National Hurricane Center warned that Laura’s storm surge could be “unsurvivable” for those who remained in its path along the Gulf of Mexico.
The eye of the storm took aim at the Texas-Louisiana border, and the coast from Freeport, Texas, to the mouth of the Mississippi River was under a storm surge warning, according to the hurricane center.
As Laura pushed inland across southwestern Louisiana the storm created ongoing flash flooding, the National Hurricane Center said in an update. “Take cover now!” the center said.
The storm had already knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of users in Louisiana and Texas by early Thursday.
A surge from Laura could mean an inland rush of seawater up to 20 feet, the center said.
On Wednesday, the sheriff’s office of Vermilion Parish, just east of where Laura came ashore, warned residents who wouldn’t or couldn’t evacuate to keep identification on them.
“Please evacuate and if you choose to stay and we can’t get to you, write your name, address, Social Security number and next of kin and put it [in] a ziplock bag in your pocket,” the office said in a statement.
Laura will move inland Thursday morning and move north across Louisiana through Thursday afternoon. The National Weather Service has said that devastation could spread far inland in eastern Texas and western Louisiana.
A hurricane warning was in effect from San Luis Pass, Texas, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana. Federal forecasters warned of “catastrophic wind damage.”
“This is a life-threatening situation,” the center said. “Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other dangerous conditions.”
Hundreds of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate ahead of the storm.
Late Wednesday U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared public health emergencies in Texas and Louisiana as a result of Laura.
Phil Klotzback, atmospheric scientist at Colorado State University, said on Twitter the landfall marked the third hurricane to strike the continental United States in 2020. Only two other Atlantic hurricane seasons, 1886 and 1916 have had three or more continental landfalls by this date, he said.