TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Texas Governor Greg Abbott updated the public on the state's response to Hurricane Laura, which is currently forecast to make landfall as a major hurricane over Southeast Texas late Wednesday night.
"We need to be prepared that Hurricane Laura could become a category 4," said Gov. Abbott. "Unlike Hurricane Harvey, this is going to be more of a wind event. There will be a lot of devastation wrecked upon Texas as the storm sweeps through especially east Texas. As well as lingering challenges that will result."
The hurricane will track northward and eventually northeast into Arkansas. The most significant wind and rain impacts are expected to remain east of North and Central Texas.
"Tornados will be spawned," Abbott warned. "People anywhere near where the eye of the hurricane will come assure will need to be very aware of this high water surge and the devastation it can wreck."
Some gusty winds to around 40 mph and heavy rainfall could affect areas as far west as the I-45 corridor as the storm moves inland on Thursday.
"We are anticipating high winds, especially in East Texas and a very fast moving storm," said Abbott. "There will be a water surge of at least 10 feet where the storm comes ashore. People near the eye of the storm need to be aware -- it could easily sweep you away, causing you to lose your life."
Localized flooding is possible, particularly in locations stretching from Palestine northward toward Paris.
"We have only a few more hours for people to make sure they take the action that is needed to make sure of their safety and the safety of their property. We urge swift action be taken over the next 12 hours to make sure you do all you can to protect yourself and your property," cautioned Abbott.
Hundreds of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate the Texas and Louisiana coasts Tuesday as the storm churns in the Gulf of Mexico.
"If you are subject to one of these evacuation orders you need to be doing all you can to make sure that you take the action that needs to be taken to protect your life. Those that stay behind may be caught in a situation where rescue teams may be challenged in being able to rescue from a situation that can cause you to lose your life so please heed local warnings," said Abbott.
Abbott also extended his disaster declaration for 36 additional counties, including Dallas.
The governor mentioned two evacuation centers opening up in the DFW area at the Mesquite Reception Center and Knights of Columbus Hall in Ennis.
More than 385,000 residents were told to flee the Texas cities of Beaumont, Galveston and Port Arthur, and others were ordered to evacuate low-lying southwestern Louisiana, where forecasters said more than 11 feet of storm surge topped by waves could submerge entire towns.
"Anybody in the Beaumont/Port Arthur area will face significant challenges," said Abbott. "They need to prepare for loss of power."
The National Hurricane Center projected that Laura will become a Category 3 hurricane before landfall, with winds of around 115 mph that are capable of devastating damage.
Nearly all computer simulations that forecasters rely on show rapid strengthening at some point in the next couple of days.
In Galveston and Port Arthur, Texas, mandatory evacuation orders went into effect at 6 a.m. Tuesday. People planning on entering official shelters were told to bring just one bag of personal belongings each, and "have a mask" to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Officials in Houston asked residents to prepare supplies in case they lose power for a few days or need to evacuate homes along the coast. Some in the area are still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey three years ago.
CBS Houston affiliate KHOU reports that Laura is not another Harvey-like rain event. While there will be rain, forecasters are more concerned about wind and storm surge.
Forecasters said ocean water could push onto land along a more than 450-mile-long stretch of coast from Texas to Mississippi. Hurricane warnings were issued from San Luis Pass, Texas, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana; and storm surge warnings from the Port Arthur, Texas, flood protection system to the mouth of the Mississippi River.
State emergencies were declared in Louisiana and Mississippi, and shelters opened with cots set farther apart, among other measures designed to curb infections.
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