Hurricane Laura is expected to accelerate into a Category 4 storm later this evening, the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday, bringing wind speeds of more than 100 miles per hour to the Texas and Louisiana coasts.
The NHC said Hurricane Laura, which is now moving at around 15 miles per hour in a north-northwest motion heading towards the upper Texas and southwest Louisiana coasts, could make landfall later this evening with winds of up to 110 miles per hour at its core, with tropical storm force gales that extend 175 miles outward around the Gulf region.
Satellite data indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 110 mph with higher gusts," the NHC said early Wednesday. "Laura is forecast to become a category 4 hurricane today, and is expected to be a major hurricane at landfall. Rapid weakening is expected after Laura makes landfall.
"The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline," the NHC added. "The water could reach the following heights above ground somewhere in the indicated areas if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide."
Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared disaster conditions in 36 counties around the Hurricane's path, and said plans were being made to evacuate affected residents while maintaining social distancing guidelines linked to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, while Louisiana, Governor John Bel Edwards warned of 'significant flooding' in coastal areas.
The Gulf region's key oil installations, which account for around 45% of the U.S.'s refining capacity, are bracing for the worst, with drillers pulling workers from more than 300 platforms around the area, taking some 1.56 million barrels of oil offline each day of the evacuation.
As a result, oil prices have bumped to the highest levels in five month, with West Texas Intermediate crude futures changing hands at $43.36 per barrel in early Wednesday trading.