(BBC)–Thursday, 27th August, 2020–Hurricane Laura has made landfall in the US state of Louisiana, causing flash flooding and leaving hundreds of thousands of homes without power.
Forecasters earlier warned that the storm, a category four when it struck the coast with winds of up to 150mph (240km/h), threatened to cause an “unsurvivable” storm surge.
Hurricane Laura is one of the strongest storms to ever hit the US Gulf Coast.
Half a million residents have been told to leave parts of Texas and Louisiana.
Hurricane Laura made landfall shortly after midnight local time (05:00 GMT) near the district of Cameron, in Louisiana. By 04:00, it had been downgraded to a category three storm, with winds of up to 130mph (208km/h), the National Weather Service (NWS) reported.
The NWS added that the “unsurvivable storm surge… could penetrate up to 40 miles inland from the immediate coastline, and flood waters will not fully recede for several days”.
More than 370,000 homes in Louisiana reportedly lost power in the early hours on Thursday, according to the US tracking site PowerOutage. In Texas, more than 85,000 homes suffered power cuts.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) earlier warned any residents remaining in or near the path of the “catastrophic” storm to “take action now to protect your life… in a reinforced interior room away from windows”.
“Get under a table or other piece of sturdy furniture,” the NHC said, adding: “Use mattresses, blankets or pillows to cover your head and body.”
Television footage showed heavy rain and strong winds lashing the coastal city of Lake Charles in south-west Louisiana, and damage to some buildings was reported.
While Laura strengthened rapidly on Wednesday from category three to category four, it weakened in the hours after reaching the Louisiana coast.
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 it made landfall in the US. Broken levees led to disastrous flooding in the city of New Orleans, which sits some 6ft (2m) below sea level, making it particularly vulnerable to storms.
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. Greg Abbott, the Governor of neighboring Texas urged families who could afford it to take refuge in hotels and motels to be distanced from others.