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UPI Staff
Hurricane Laura is seen Wednesday afternoon just off the U.S. Gulf Coast. The National Hurricane Center said the storm is extremely dangerous and will produce unsurvivable storm surge. Image courtesy NOA/NHC

Hurricane Laura is seen Wednesday afternoon just off the U.S. Gulf Coast. The National Hurricane Center said the storm is “extremely dangerous” and will produce “unsurvivable” storm surge. Image courtesy NOA/NHC
Aug. 26 (UPI) — Hurricane Laura grew to a Category 4 storm on Wednesday afternoon and is expected to remain at that strength until it arrives on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The National Hurricane Center said Laura is an “extremely dangerous” storm and will make landfall late Wednesday or early Thursday between eastern Texas and western Louisiana.

The NHC said in its 1 p.m. update that Laura was 200 miles southeast of both Lake Charles, La., and Port Arthur, Texas, and had maximum sustained winds of 140 mph — well above Category 4 strength. It was moving northwest at 16 mph.

“This is a life-threatening situation,” the NHC said in its latest advisory. “Persons located within [the storm’s path] should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other dangerous conditions.”

Laura became a Category 3 storm earlier Wednesday and quickly reached Category 4 status. It would become a Category 5 storm, the most severe, if sustained winds reach 157 mph.

The NHC said the hurricane will produce “unsurvivable” storm surge with “destructive waves” in some parts of the storm’s path.

“Steps to protect life and property should be rushed to completion in the next few hours,” it warned.

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“On the forecast track, Laura will approach the Upper Texas and southwest Louisiana coasts this evening and move inland within that area tonight. The center of Laura is forecast to move over northwestern Louisiana tomorrow, across Arkansas Thursday night, and over the mid-Mississippi Valley on Friday,” the center added.

A hurricane warning is in effect from San Luis Pass in Texas to Intracoastal City, La.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards requested a Federal Emergency Declaration last weekend to prepare for Laura.

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“This is unlike anything we have seen,” he said. “This may mean that people will have to shelter in place for more than 72 hours and that there may not be time to do things like restore lost power.”

“If Laura also takes a track toward the Louisiana coast as forecast, power crews may not even be able to go to some areas,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski.

Tropical Storm Marco, which preceded Laura in the Gulf of Mexico, became the 10th storm in 2020 to go down in the record books for the basin, and Laura is the earliest ‘L’ named storm on record.

And more storms could be coming, as tropical waves continue to emerge off the coast of Africa. The heart of the 2020 hurricane season, which is just getting underway, is expected to be extremely active.