[Ed. – Laura got serious in a hurry on Tuesday. Heavy flooding is predicted in western Louisiana, with a storm surge of up to 13 feet.]
In the largest U.S. evacuation of the pandemic, more than half a million people were ordered to flee the Gulf Coast on Tuesday as Laura strengthened into a hurricane that forecasters said could slam Texas and Louisiana with ferocious winds, heavy flooding and the power to push seawater miles inland.
More than 385,000 residents were told to flee the Texas cities of Beaumont, Galveston and Port Arthur, and another 200,000 were ordered to leave low-lying Calcasieu Parish in southwestern Louisiana, where forecasters said as much as 13 feet (4 meters) of storm surge topped by waves could submerge whole communities.
Forecasters Tuesday night expected the storm to increase in strength by 33%, from 90 mph (144 kmh) to 120 mph (193 kmh) in just 24 hours. They project Laura to strike the coast as a major Category 3 hurricane.