Last week, meteorologists began tracking the tropical disturbance that would become Hurricane Laura. At the time, no one suspected that the storm would intensify with the speed it has. Over Wednesday morning and afternoon, the storm swelled greatly in power and size. By the time of this writing, the storm is being described as a Category 4 hurricane.
Hurricanes are judged on a scale from one to five, each number indicating an uptick in speed and intensity. Five is the highest number on the scale. The speed with which Laura became a Category 4 has caused alarm among both meteorologists for academic reasons and state officials in Texas and Louisiana for immediate reasons.
Beyond the threat of the storm itself, officials are worried about the logistics of the COVID-19 pandemic. People crowding into a public shelter may find it difficult to practice social distancing.
Typically, the right call when a hurricane is moving towards you is to move in the other direction. However, Hurricane Laura was not initially expected to become as strong as it has. By escalating to a Category 4 as quickly as it has, Laura has caught Texas and Louisiana flat-footed. Officials in both states are now scrambling to help evacuate the coastal regions.
The Gulf Coast is no stranger to hurricanes, of course. However, the sudden intensification of the storm means that many people who might have written it off will now be caught by surprise. With the storm surge Laura is expected to bring, such a surprise could become deadly.
With the high wind speeds of the storm and its massive size, Laura is expected to bring a sizable storm surge along with it. Some have described the storm’s current power as “catastrophic”. It is expected to wash away cars, homes and businesses with abandon. On top of storm surge flooding, the storm is likely to deposit enough rainfall to cause rivers to jump their banks and cause flooding even further inland.
Beyond the storm surge and rainfall, there is also the high wind speed to consider. The winds are just as likely to pick up debris and level structures as flooding. As such, it’s no surprise the storm’s arrival has been called “unsurvivable” by some experts. In short, if you live on the Gulf Coast of Texas or Louisiana, you need to seek shelter at higher ground further inland.