Hurricane Laura is expected to cause an „unsurvivable” storm surge, extreme winds and floods as it hits the US, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) says.
The Category 4 storm is approaching Texas and Louisiana with maximum sustained wind speeds of 150 miles per hour (240km/h).
If it maintains those speeds it would be one of the strongest storms to ever hit the US south coast.
Half a million residents have been told to leave the area.
As of 23:00 local time (04:00 GMT) the centre of the hurricane was 65 miles (105km) south east of Port Arthur in Texas.
Laura and another storm, Marco, earlier hit the Caribbean, killing 24. Marco has already struck Louisiana, bringing strong winds and heavy rain on Monday.
Initially it was feared that both storms would hit Louisiana as hurricanes within 48 hours of each other – an unprecedented event – but Marco was downgraded to a tropical storm.
Laura, on the other hand, has strengthened rapidly from a Category 3, gaining 70% in power in just 24 hours, to a Category 4, maximum sustained winds of 140mph (220km/h).
It is now close to becoming a Category Five storm, which would mean maximum sustained winds of 158mph (254km/h).
Hurricane Katrina – which devastated New Orleans in 2005, killing more than 1,800 people – was a Category Five storm before weakening to a Category Three when made landfall in the US.
US President Donald Trump told those potentially affected by the storm to „listen to local officials” as the storm was „very dangerous and rapidly intensifying”.
Evacuations are complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Texas Governor Greg Abbott urged families who could afford it to take refuge in hotels and motels to be distanced from others.
What can we expect from Hurricane Laura?
Early on Wednesday the NHC said satellite images had shown that Laura had undergone a remarkable intensification to become a „formidable hurricane”.
Well-built homes could incur major damage, trees could be snapped or uprooted and electricity and water would be unavailable for days or even weeks, it said.
„Hurricane force winds and widespread damaging wind gusts will also spread well inland into portions of eastern Texas and western Louisiana early Thursday,” the NHC added.
Storm surges of more than 20ft (6m) are possible. In an update at 14:00 local time, the NHC reported 3.2ft of inundation already on parts of the Louisiana coast.
„To think that there would be a wall of water over two storeys high coming on shore is very difficult for most to conceive, but that is what is going to happen,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Benjamin Schott.
„The word ‘unsurvivable’ is not one that we like to use, and it’s one that I’ve never used before,” he added.
Governor Abbott urged people in the path of the storm to „take advantage of these final few hours to evacuate”.
„The power of Hurricane Laura is unprecedented, and Texans must take action now to get out of harm’s way and protect themselves,” he said.
Laura is expected to reach landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border between midnight and 02:00 local time on Thursday (07:00 GMT).
The National Weather Service has also issued a tornado watch for parts of Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi.
More than 420,000 Texas residents have been ordered to leave, while an additional 200,000 were told to evacuate Calcasieu Parish in south-western Louisiana.
Port Arthur, Texas, is home to the nation’s largest oil refinery, and workers have been taken off at least 310 offshore facilities in the Gulf of Mexico, reducing oil production by 84% for a second day in a row, officials said.
What happened in the Caribbean?
Marco and Laura brought high winds and rough seas to the Caribbean, leaving at least 24 people dead, including a baby and an eight-year-old child in Haiti.
Heavy rains have also battered parts of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and the US territory of Puerto Rico. President Trump declared a state of disaster in the territory on Saturday.
In Cuba, authorities have evacuated at least 160,000 people from several coastal regions, while thousands have been evacuated in the Dominican Republic.
In Jamaica, there were reports of landslides and flooded roads.
By Sangmi Cha
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea was on high alert as Typhoon Bavi made landfall early on Thursday, dumping heavy rains and uprooting trees after skirting the coast of South Korea overnight causing some reported damage.
North Korea’s KCTV state television broke into broadcasts overnight to report on the storm, showing downed trees and building debris on roads, a sign of the heightened concern after heavy rains earlier this month caused flooding and damaged crops.
Leader Kim Jong Un has issued an alert to prevent crop damage and casualties as the country guards against the coronavirus pandemic.
Martyn Williams of 38 North, a website that monitors North Korea, said it was exceptional that North Korean TV routinely interrupted movies to report storm updates.
„I believe the first time ever,” Williams said on Twitter. „It’s a clear sign of fear for loss of life and destruction.”
South Korean Meteorological Administration said the typhoon made landfall about 50 km (31 miles) southwest of the North’s capital Pyongyang on Thursday morning.
KCTV showed a rising Taedong River in Pyongyang, after a pre-recorded video of farmers working on rice paddies.
Heavy rain earlier this month raised concern about food supplies in the isolated country, after inundating hundreds of houses and flooding vast rice-growing lands.
South Korea reported minimal damage from the storm, while international and domestic flights were cancelled.
(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Michael Perry)
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A typhoon damaged homes and other buildings, flooded roads and toppled utility poles Thursday on the Korean Peninsula, with neither country immediately reporting casualties as the storm passed by the North’s capital.
Typhoon Bavi had maximum winds of 115 kilometers (71 miles) per hour and was passing near Pyongyang after making landfall in a western coastal region of North Korea that is a major source of farming and fishing, South Korea’s weather agency said. It was forecast to weaken to a tropical storm in the next 12 hours.
The North’s Korea Central TV showed footage of snapped trees and utility poles and flooded roads while also reporting damages to houses and public facilities in North Hwanghae and South Hwanghae provinces, where the typhoon made landfall. Roads were also flooded in the city of Nampo, which is closer to Pyongyang.
The broadcaster and other state media outlets made no immediate mention of any injuries or deaths in North Korea.
In South Korea, the Ministry of the Interior and Safety said there was no immediate reports of casualties, despite damage to buildings, walls, roads and other structures. The Korea Meteorological Administration warned of strong winds continuing in Seoul and the central region through the morning.
Power was knocked out in 1,633 South Korean homes, about half on the southern resort island of Jeju, which was the first part of the country to be hit by the typhoon on Wednesday. Most power was restored in the morning.
More than 430 domestic flights in and out of Jeju and the southern mainland city of Busan were canceled. South Korean authorities also halted some railroad services, shut down public parks and sea bridges and moved hundreds of fishing boats and passenger vessels to safety.
Workers in Seoul and other major cities were restoring makeshift coronavirus testing stations that had been dismantled out of concerns that the tents and booths wouldn’t have withstood the strong winds.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said earlier this week that leader Kim Jong Un had called for thorough preparations to minimize casualties and damages from the typhoon. Fishing boats were moved and other protective measures were taken to help buildings, farms and railroads withstand the storm, according to state media.
The storm comes weeks after torrential rains caused flooding and massive damages to homes and crops in North Korea, inflicting further pain to an economy ravaged by pandemic-linked border closures and U.S.-led sanctions over Kim’s nuclear program.