As rain from a weakening Tropical Storm Marco soaked portions of the Gulf Coast on Monday, forecasters feared Laura, which is close behind, could deliver a much more serious blow to the area.
Marco made landfall about 6 p.m. Monday near the mouth of the Mississippi River and is forecast to weaken further to a tropical depression, according to the National Hurricane Center. Tropical Storm Laura is expected to reach hurricane status before it roars toward the Gulf Coast on Wednesday and Thursday.
Laura should be much more of a big deal than Marco, forecasters said.
For the residents of the Louisiana coast, “they’re certainly lucky that Marco is not worse than it is,” University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy said Monday. “This (Marco) will come and go, and they can get ready for Laura. That’ll be the main attraction.”
Fifteen years and $15 billion after Katrina: New Orleans is more prepared for a major hurricane. For now.
National Weather Service meteorologist Benjamin Schott said Laura could make landfall as a Category 3 hurricane, which have winds of at least 111 mph. It would be the first Category 3 hurricane to strike Louisiana since Rita in 2005.
The National Hurricane Center said Monday that „there is an increasing risk of dangerous storm surge, wind and rainfall impacts from the upper Texas coast to the north-central Gulf Coast beginning Wednesday” from Laura.
Rain bands from both storms could bring a combined total of 2 feet of rain to parts of Louisiana, potentially raising the storm surge to more than 10 feet along the coastline and pushing water 30 miles up the rivers in a worst-case scenario, Schott said.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards told a news briefing Monday, “We’re only going to dodge the bullet so many times. And the current forecast for Laura has it focused intently on Louisiana.”
State emergencies were declared in Louisiana and Mississippi, and shelters were opened with cots set farther apart, among other measures designed to curb coronavirus infections.
August Creppel, chief of the United Houma Nation, was concerned about the group’s 17,000 members, spread out over six parishes along the Louisiana Gulf Coast.
“We know our people are going to get hit,” he said. “We just don’t know who yet.”
Sarah Manowitz, responsible for four bars in New Orleans’ French Quarter, made sure windows were boarded up. She prepped her house and filled her tub with water. Manowitz is remaining on site, counting on a “community of people” who look out for each other during storms.
“We’re all going to help each other share food, share whatever supplies,” she said.
As of 6 p.m. EDT, Marco had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph as it slid to the west-northwest at 8 mph. All the tropical storm warnings and storm surge warnings for the Gulf Coast were discontinued, according to the Hurricane Center.
Although the storm has weakened, „gusty winds, heavy rainfall and lingering coastal flooding are expected from Marco along portions of the Gulf Coast through this (Monday) evening,” the Hurricane Center said.
The system was downgraded to a tropical storm Sunday night. What’s left of the storm is expected to turn west and reach Texas as a tropical depression or remnant low-pressure area by late Tuesday.
Laura strengthened near eastern Cuba on Sunday night after killing at least 11 people in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The storm traveled west-northwest at 20 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, according to the hurricane center’s latest advisory.
A tropical storm warning was issued for portions of the Florida Keys as Laura approached. The Keys could see winds of 39 to 57 mph through early Tuesday.
Heavy rain will accompany the high winds from Laura: “From late Wednesday into Friday, Laura is expected to produce rainfall of 5 to 10 inches, with isolated maximum amounts of 15 inches across portions of the west-central U.S. Gulf Coast near the Texas and Louisiana border north into portions of the lower Mississippi Valley,” the Hurricane Center wrote. “This rainfall could cause widespread flash and urban flooding, small streams to overflow their banks, and the possibility of some minor river flooding across this region.”
„Laura will expand in size on Tuesday and Wednesday, and will likely grow into a larger-than-average storm capable of generating a very large storm surge,” according to meteorologists Bob Henson and Jeff Masters, who write for Yale Climate Connections.
The Atlantic hurricane season has been a record-breaker. Laura is the earliest L-named storm in the Atlantic Basin, breaking a record held by Luis, which formed Aug. 29, 1995. This season has had 13 named storms, well above-normal activity.
2020 could set a record for most hurricane hits this early in the year, if Laura also makes landfall this week. The most Atlantic named storms on record to make landfall in the continental USA by the end of August is six, which occurred in 1886 and 1916, according to Colorado State University meteorologist Phil Klotzbach. The continental USA has had five this year: Bertha, Cristobal, Fay, Hanna and Isaias, he said.
Contributing: John Bacon, Rick Jervis, Jordan Culver and Jessica Flores, USA TODAY; Brian Broom, The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Miss.); Greg Hilburn, The (Monroe, Louisiana) News-Star; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tropical Storms Gulf Coast: Marco, Laura surge toward landfall
Tropical Storm Laura pounded Cuba with heavy rains Monday as it barrelled toward the US, where forecasters predicted it would strengthen to a hurricane after leaving 24 people dead and a swath of destruction in the Caribbean.
„Strengthening is expected when the storm moves over the Gulf of Mexico, and Laura is forecast to become a hurricane by late Tuesday,” the US National Hurricane Center said, predicting it would make landfall in the US state of Louisiana later in the week.
Meanwhile Tropical Storm Marco — which also churned through the Gulf of Mexico — was downgraded from a hurricane overnight and was forecast to hit Louisiana later Monday, weakening to a tropical depression on Tuesday.
Marco’s weakening winds have at least spared the Gulf what would have been twin hurricanes, unprecedented since records began 150 years ago.
Laura was moving fast across Cuba at 20 miles (32 kilometers) per hour on Monday, unleashing heavy rain and coastal flooding.
Winds gusting up to 65 miles per hour were reported in Havana, and waves of more than three meters (10 feet) battered the Maisi area of Guantanamo province.
The high winds tore tin roofs off homes and downed trees, but local authorities reported no human casualties.
Cuban authorities had evacuated at least 160,000 people in the provinces of Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, Granma and Camaguey.
„The center of Laura will move away from Cuba and over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico overnight (Monday),” the NHC said.
„Laura is then forecast to move over the central and northwestern Gulf of Mexico Tuesday night and Wednesday.”
– Deaths in the Caribbean –
The Atlantic storm season, which runs through November, could be one of the busiest ever this year, with the Hurricane Center predicting as many as 25 named storms. Laura is the 12th so far.
Energy companies suspended some oil and natural gas production in the Gulf as the weather deteriorated.
Heavy rainfall and flash flooding also hit Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.