Residents of Louisiana and South Texas were preparing to face the monster hurricane Laura on Wednesday, considered by meteorologists to be “extremely dangerous,” as it approaches Category 5, the highest on the D scale. ‘intensity.
Carrying winds of up to 240 km / h, it could cause “deadly” and potentially “catastrophic” rising waters, extreme winds, as well as “flash floods”, warned the National Hurricane Center (NHC) .
Laura is expected to make landfall on Wednesday evening or early Thursday morning. If it maintains this power while approaching the coasts, Hurricane Laura will be among the 13 strongest storms to hit the United States. The NHC says, however, that the system should weaken quickly upon entering the land.
“Hurricane Laura is very dangerous and is intensifying rapidly. Listen to local officials. We are with you! President Donald Trump tweeted.
Vice President Mike Pence, speaking at the Republican convention, urged those concerned to “heed national and local authorities”.
“My prayers are with you tonight. Our government is working in close collaboration with the authorities of the states that will be affected, ”he added.
The National Guard said it has mobilized more than a thousand members in Texas to help meet the needs, including 20 planes and more than 15 teams tasked with organizing shelters.
The Eye of the Hurricane was at 02:00 GMT 145 km south of the coastal town of Lake Charles, Louisiana, known for its major oil refining centers. Its inhabitants boarded coaches after receiving a mandatory evacuation order due to the risk of flooding.
“We thought we would try to overcome (the storm) at home, but we heard that it was going to be too powerful,” Jimmy Ray told AFP, loaded with several bags on his shoulders.
Another Lake Charles resident, Patricia Como, explained that family members decided to stay, but that she personally would not take the risk.
“I’m not going to play this with the good Lord,” she said.
Evacuation manager Angela Jouett said new protocols had to be put in place because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“People who come in get sprayed with disinfectant on their hands,” the official said. “We check the temperature for them and we put everyone at a distance of 2 m from each other,” she said.
Among the cities potentially in the path of the cyclone and placed under mandatory evacuation orders were Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, which already suffered heavy damage from Hurricane Harvey three years ago.
15 years after Katrina
“You only have a few hours to prepare and evacuate,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards warned on Twitter on Wednesday.
His state remains traumatized by Katrina, a hurricane of category 5, the highest, which had inundated 80% of the city of New Orleans and killed a thousand, almost 15 years ago to the day.
In the Old French Square, the historic center of New Orleans emptied of tourists, sandbags were piled up in front of the doorsteps, and the windows of buildings of colonial architecture were protected by plywood panels.
Those who survived Katrina remember that “you can’t know” what to expect, warns town resident Sonya McCuller.
In the neighboring state of Texas, already grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, the governor urged residents to take shelter. “Your belongings can be replaced, not your life,” he warned the Weather Channel.
In the town of La Porte, near Houston, residents were making sure they had what it takes to weather the storm.
“I’m a little stressed, but I also tell myself that I will be safe in my apartment,” Matthew Jones, 28, told AFP. “I have bread, salami, peanut butter, jam, water and snacks.”
In Galveston, the site of a historic hurricane in 1900 that killed between 8,000 and 12,000 people, evacuation operations intensified and the school district canceled classes until Friday.
The hurricane season in the Atlantic, which officially lasts from 1er June to November 30, promises to be particularly intense this year. The National Hurricane Center expects 25 lows. Laura is already the twelfth. It has already caused major floods in Haiti and the Dominican Republic resulting in the deaths of 25 people.