Hurricane Laura the strongest hurricane to hit Louisiana in more than 100 years

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Dustin Amos walks near debris at a gas station on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, in Lake Charles, La., after Hurricane Laura moved through the state. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

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December 25 2021 12:00 am

MIAMI – The National Hurricane Center says Laura has weakened to a Category 2 hurricane as it moves deeper inland over Louisiana.

That’s no longer a major hurricane but it still has extremely dangerous maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, nearly five hours after striking the coast and pushing what forecasters called an unsurvivable storm surge miles inland.

Forecasters say it’s centered about 45 miles north-northwest of Lake Charles and moving north at 15 mph.

Laura’s eye hit a stretch of Louisiana near the Texas state line early Thursday as a Category 4. It was the strongest hurricane to make landfall in Louisiana in more than 160 years, tying with hurricane from 1856 that had 150 mph winds.

Authorities had ordered more than 580,000 coastal residents to evacuate, but not everyone did. Now they have to wait until conditions ease before attempting search and rescue missions and assessing the damage.

Officials in multiple areas hit hard by the Hurricane Laura are unsure when rescuers will reach people affected by the storm.

In Holly Beach, Louisiana, many residents raised the level of their homes after Hurricane Rita, but there were fears that the houses still were not high enough to withstand up to 20 feet of storm surge, Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“We’re hopeful those people got out, but as soon as it’s safe for the first responders to get in there, we’re hopeful that we don’t find people that didn’t make it,” Nungesser said Thursday.

Dick Gremillion, director for Calcasieu Parish Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said his office hasn’t been able to start assessing the damage yet because of high winds and the need for daylight.

But he cited the tide gauge further south in Cameron Parish, which appears to have been less than the predicted 20 feet of surge.

The Louisiana National Guard has 222 high-water vehicles and 65 boats staged across south Louisiana, for search and rescue efforts when it’s safe to do so.

FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor urged people to stay home if they were safe.

“Stay in your home. Don’t go out sightseeing. You put yourself, your family at risk and you put first responders at risk. … stay home,” he said during an interview on CBS’ “This Morning.”

Power companies are reporting that nearly 470,000 homes and businesses were without electricity early Thursday in Louisiana and Texas.

That’s according to the website, which tracks utility reports.

New Orleans-based Entergy said shortly before the storm struck that the hardest-hit areas may experience outages for weeks.

The company says it has crews coming from 20 states to help, including some from as far away as Wisconsin and Virginia.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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