Laura weakens to tropical storm, bringing damaging winds and flooding rainfall as it moves inland

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Laura weakened to a tropical storm on Thursday, about 12 hours after making landfall along the Louisiana coast as a Category 4 hurricane.

Hurricane Laura made landfall overnight, bringing “catastrophic storm surge, extreme winds and flash flooding” to portions of Louisiana, killing at least one person. The storm weakened rapidly as it moved through the state Thursday morning after landfall, downing trees and power lines, and knocking out power to more than 415,000 people.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said he received a report that a 14-year-old girl died when a tree fell on her home. There have been no other reports of deaths at this time, but the toll is feared to rise as recovery efforts get underway. More than 580,000 residents were ordered to evacuate.

Forecasters said high water levels are persisting along the Gulf Coast Thursday morning. They warned earlier that storm surge of 15 to 20 feet would be “unsurvivable.”

At 11 a.m. EST, Laura had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, and was about 55 miles southeast of Shreveport, Louisiana. It was moving north at 16 miles per hour.

The forecast track has Laura moving across northern Louisiana this afternoon. It’s expected to reach Arkansas by Wednesday night, then travel through the mid-Mississippi Valley and the mid-Atlantic states over the weekend.

The National Hurricane Center is warning of the following impacts from the storm:

Storm surge

The National Hurricane Center said “unsurvivable storm surge” and “large, destructive waves” will cause catastrophic damage from Sea Rim State Park in Texas to Intracoastal City in Louisiana.

The storm surge could penetrate up to 40 miles inland from the coast. Forecasters said flood waters won’t fully recede for several days.

“This is a life-threatening situation. Persons located within (areas under a Storm Surge Warning) should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other dangerous conditions,” the NHC said. “Promptly follow evacuation and other instructions from local officials.”

Storm surge could reach as high as 15 to 20 feet from Johnson Bayou, Louisiana to Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, including Calcasieu Lake. Sea Rim State Park, Texas to Johnson Bayou, Louisiana – including Sabine Lake – and Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge to Intracoastal City, Louisiana could see 10 to 15 feet of storm surge.

“The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the right of the landfall location, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves,” the NHC said.

Wind

According to forecasters, hurricane conditions are expected in the hurricane warning area through the morning, with “catastrophic wind damage” expected near Laura’s eyewall.

Tropical storm conditions will spread northward within the warning areas through the day.

“Hurricane-force winds and damaging wind gusts are also expected to spread well inland into portions of eastern Texas and western Louisiana Thursday morning,” the NHC said.

Rainfall

The NHC says Laura is expected to produce rainfall totals of 6 to 12 inches across parts of the northwestern Gulf Coast and northward into Arkansas. Some areas could see up to 18 inches.

“This rainfall will cause widespread flash and urban flooding, small streams and creeks to overflow their banks and minor to isolated moderate freshwater river flooding,” the NHC said.

Tornadoes

The NHC says tornadoes are possible today and tonight over parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, and western Mississippi.

Watches and warnings in effect:

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for:

  • Sabine Pass Texas to Port Fourchon Louisiana

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for:

  • High Island Texas to the Mouth of the Mississippi River

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