Hurricane Laura officially strengthened to Category 4 storm Wednesday afternoon, as forecasters predicted it would cause “catastrophic damage” in parts of Louisiana and Texas, according to the National Weather Service.
The rapidly moving storm — which was poised to strike the Texas coastline and parts of western Louisiana Wednesday night — is packing winds of 140 mph, according to a release from weather service at 2 p.m. eastern time.
A hurricane with the strength of Laura, which has intensified from a Category 1 to a Category 4 since Tuesday, hasn’t hit the region in more than a decade.
Laura is expected to pound the area with “unsurvivable” flood waves, the NWS said in a statement urging residents to flee.
“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 statement said. “This surge could penetrate up to 30 miles inland from the immediate coastline. Only a few hours remain to protect life and property and all actions should be rushed to completion.”
The hurricane is expected to flood coastal areas of western Louisiana near the Texas border with between 15 to 20 feet of water, depending on if it strikes during high or low tide, the weather service said.
Laura is also expected to unleash winds of more than 120 mph near where it makes landfall, and cause flooding of areas up to 30 miles from the coast.