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Laura explodes into Category 4 hurricane packing 150-mph winds

Laura explodes into Category 4 hurricane packing 150-mph winds

By Courtney Spamer, AccuWeather meteorologist & Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist

Published Aug. 25, 2020 7:37 AM | Updated Aug. 26, 2020 9:03 PMCopied 0% 

Laura became a major hurricane on Wednesday, August 26 and is forecast to get stronger. Bernie Rayno has an update.

Hurricane Laura’s outer bands began lashing the Gulf Coast on Wednesday afternoon and forecasters’ warnings grew more dire as the menacing storm crept closer to land. Hundreds of thousands have already fled from the ferocious storm, which is now the first major hurricane of the extremely busy 2020 Atlantic season. Experts are warning of potentially devastating storm surge and hellacious winds that could top 150 mph at landfall.

The storm had continued to intensify on Wednesday, after exploding into the first major hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic season in the morning. Laura is an extremely dangerous Category 4 storm, packing maximum sustained winds of 150 mph. The eye of Laura was about 90 miles south of Lake Charles, Louisiana, at 9:00 p.m. CDT Wednesday, moving north-northwestward at 15 mph.

Forecasters expect Laura to make landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border as a Category 4 hurricane, but it could even reach Category 5 strength (wind speeds of 157 mph or greater) for a time as it moves over bath warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Whether or not the hurricane reaches Category 5 status may depend on if the eye undergoes structural changes.

The storm is rated a 4 on the AccuWeather RealImpact Scale for Hurricanes, a new method the company introduced in 2019 to better assess the overall potential damage a storm could cause than the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which only factors in wind impacts.

Hurricane Laura approaching the Gulf Coast on Wednesday evening. (NOAA/GOES-East)

Along with the half million-plus residential evacuations, the looming Laura worry has also forced the evacuation of livestock. AccuWeather National Reporter Jonathan Petramala spoke with ranchers in southwestern Louisiana who have had to urgently gather cattle and move them to higher ground with the devastating memory of Hurricane Rita from 15 years ago still lingering.

The hurricane has the potential to cause catastrophic damage and widespread power outages in southwestern Louisiana and along the upper Texas coast, but significant damage and power outages well inland. Roads may be impassable and the power could be out for days, or even weeks, after the storm. The coastline could be changed forever and some neighborhoods may be unrecognizable after the storm.

As a result of the forecast, hurricane warnings were in effect for places along the Gulf Coast from San Luis Pass, Texas, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana.

Some neighborhoods could sustain catastrophic damage due to powerful winds combined with storm surge flooding and wave a

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