AJC published special ePaper edition on powerful Hurricane Laura

Deadly Hurricane Laura pounded the Gulf Coast for hours early Thursday with ferocious winds, torrential rains and rising seawater as it roared ashore over southwestern Louisiana near the Texas border.

The AJC published a special two-page ePaper Extra edition on the storm Thursday morning.

ExploreLatest updates and photos on Hurricane Laura damage and aftermath

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 feet to 20 feet in Port Arthur, Texas, and a stretch of Louisiana including Lake Charles, a city of 80,000 people on Lake Calcasieu.

“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, reaching as far as 175 miles from Laura’s center

“Some areas, when they wake up Thursday morning, they’re not going to believe what happened,” said Stacy Stewart, a senior hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center.

Laura also is expected to quickly dump massive rainfall as it moves inland, causing widespread flash flooding in states far from the coast. Flash flood watches were issued for much of Arkansas, and forecasters said heavy rainfall could move to parts of Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky late Friday. Laura is so powerful that it’s expected to become a tropical storm again, menacing the northeastern United States, once it reaches the Atlantic Ocean.

The hurricane also threatens a center of the U.S. energy industry. The government said 84% of Gulf oil production and an estimated 61% of natural gas production were shut down, including Valero and Total refineries in Port Arthur, and Citgo’s plant in Lake Charles. Nearly 300 platforms have been evacuated. Consumers are unlikely to see big price hikes, however, because the pandemic has decimated demand for fuel.

Click to open the AJC ePaper Extra.

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