LAKE ARTHUR, La. (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — After pounding the Gulf Coast with high winds and torrential rain for hours, by 5:00 a.m. Hurricane Laura had weakened to half the strength it had when it made landfall in southwest Louisiana, near the Texas border.
With more than 290,000 homes and businesses without power in both Texas and Louisiana, near-constant lightning provided the only light for some.
The National Hurricane Center said Laura slammed the coast with winds of 150 mph at 1 a.m. CDT as a Category 4 hurricane near Cameron, a 400-person community about 30 miles east of the Texas border.
“Unsurvivable storm surge with large and destructive waves will cause catastrophic damage,” forecasters warned. They said the storm surge could reach 15-20 feet in Port Arthur, Texas, and a stretch of Louisiana including Lake Charles.
Calcasieu Parish, where the city of Lake Charles is located, has about 100,000 residents who are at risk of flooding.
“This surge could penetrate up to 40 miles inland from the immediate coastline, and flood waters will not fully recede for several days,” the hurricane center said.
Hours after landfall, Laura was still a Category 2 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph. Its center was past Lake Charles, moving north at about 15 mph, but with damaging winds that stretched over much of Louisiana and parts of eastern Texas.
According to the Power Outages website, more than 270,000 customers in Texas and Louisiana were without power early Thursday morning,
Forecasters expected a weakened Laura to cause widespread flash flooding in states far from the coast. After turning eastward and reaching the Atlantic Ocean, it could again become a tropical storm and threaten the Northeast.
Laura hit the U.S. after killing nearly two dozen people on the island of Hispaniola, including 20 in Haiti and three in the Dominican Republic, where it knocked out power and caused intense flooding.
Laura was the seventh named storm to strike the U.S. this year, setting a new record for U.S. landfalls by the end of August.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)