• Tue. Mar 9th, 2021

Gulf storms: Laura upgraded to hurricane as it heads towards US


Waves splash at the seafront Malecon during the passage of theTropical Storm Laura in Havana, Cuba Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Storm Laura has already brought rough seas and high winds in the Caribbean

Forecasters are warning of “life-threatening” storm surges along the US Gulf Coast as tropical storm Laura strengthens into a hurricane.

Hurricane Laura is expected to move northwest from Cuba and hit the states of Texas and Louisiana on Wednesday.

It comes as another storm, Marco, made landfall in Louisiana on Monday, bringing strong winds and rain.

Both have already wreaked havoc in the Caribbean, destroying homes and killing at least 20 people.

US President Donald Trump has issued a disaster declaration for Louisiana, ordering federal assistance to co-ordinate relief efforts.

Initially, both storms Marco and Laura were forecast to hit Louisiana as hurricanes within 48 hours of each other – raising concerns, particularly as it would have been the first time in recorded history that the state had been hit by two back-to-back hurricanes.

Now only Laura is expected to make landfall as a hurricane, as Marco has been downgraded to a tropical storm.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Authorities in Louisiana are bracing for Laura, the second storm expected to hit the state this week

The US National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) changed forecast has bought more time for residents along Louisiana’s coast to prepare.

But Marco could still cause damage and disruption, while Laura is expected to make landfall on Wednesday, forecasters say.

What is the forecast for the US?

America’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) announced on Tuesday that Tropical Storm Laura has strengthened into a Category One hurricane, bringing sustained winds of 75mph (120km/h).

Laura could bring storm surges of up to 11ft (3.3 metres) in areas of Louisiana and Texas, and additional rainfall of up to 2 inches (50mm), the NHC said.

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Media captionTwo major storms to make landfall in the coming days

“These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions,” it added.

Laura is expected to be much more powerful than Marco, which is expected to dissipate by early Wednesday, if not sooner.

What happened in the Caribbean?

Marco and Laura brought high winds and rough seas to the Caribbean, leaving at least 20 people dead, including a baby and an eight-year-old child in Haiti.

Heavy rains have also battered parts of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and the US territory of Puerto Rico. President Trump declared a state of disaster in the territory on Saturday.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Flooding has caused extensive damage in countries like the Dominican Republic

In Cuba, authorities have evacuated at least 160,000 people from several coastal regions, while thousands have been evacuated in the Dominican Republic.

Meanwhile in Jamaica, there were reports of landslides and flooded roads.