Laura Strengthens to a Hurricane Over Gulf of Mexico, Could Become ‘Major’ Storm

August 25, 2020 Updated: August 25, 2020

Hurricane Laura formed on Tuesday morning and is expected to become a major hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, said the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in its latest update.

U.S. hurricane hunter aircraft data suggests “that Laura has become a hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 km/h), with higher gusts,” the NHC said. The agency further warned that the system could become a major Category 3 storm when it hits the United States.

Currently, the system is about 145 miles northwest of the western tip of Cuba, and it’s about 625 miles southeast from Lake Charles, Louisiana, the NHC said. The storm, which has a minimum central pressure of 991 millibars, is currently moving 17 mph west-northwest, it added.

A hurricane watch is in effect now for San Luis Pass, Texas, to Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Watches were also issued for Lake Borgne, Lake Maurepas, and Lake Pontchartrain, the NHC said in another advisory.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards answers questions
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards answers questions while holding a media briefing about the state’s activity related to Hurricanes Marco and Laura in Baton Rouge, La. on August 24, 2020. (Bill Feig./The Advocate via AP)

A tropical storm watch is in effect from Freeport, Texas, to San Luis Pass, Texas. A watch was also issued for the area from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the mouth of the Mississippi River, the agency said.

The NHC’s “cone of uncertainty” for Laura suggests that the storm might make landfall near the Texas-Louisana border at 1 a.m. on Thursday.

Trump announced a state of emergency on Aug. 23 during a press conference about the COVID-19 pandemic. The White House said that disaster relief efforts will be coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The White House said that those agencies will “coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe.”

Trump, in a news conference, said he approved the emergency declaration after a request from Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas declared a state of disaster in his state as the two storms approached.

Lafaille Katia removes salvage items from her flooded house
28-year old Lafaille Katia removes salvage items from her flooded house the day after the passing of Tropical Storm Laura in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Aug. 24, 2020. (Dieu Nalio Chery via AP Photo)

Over the weekend, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves similarly declared a state of emergency over the two storms.

The hurricane center warned people not to focus on the details of the official forecast, since “storm surge, wind, and rainfall hazards will extend well away from Laura’s center along the Gulf Coast.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.