Gov. John Bel Edwards, in a news briefing Sunday, urged Louisiana residents to be prepared to stay wherever they are at sundown for the next 72 hours.
One of two storms, Laura, is projected to make landfall near Cameron Parish and move up into Calcasieu Parish with 100 mph winds some time Wednesday.
But that’s not the half of it — literally — the state is facing a “one-two punch” from two storms set to journey across the Gulf of Mexico to strike opposite ends of the state within 48 hours of each other.
The first, Marco, reached Category 1 hurricane status before noon Sunday and is expected to began impacting the coast of Southeast Louisiana in the early morning hours of Monday. Marco is projected to swipe across Southwest Louisiana after making landfall, probably with Tropical Storm force winds.
According to Ben Schott, meteorologist in charge for the National Weather Service/ in New Orleans, the most important consideration with Marco is not the category of hurricane. “Unfortunately, Category 1 hurricanes still put a lot of people at risk to not only lose property, but also their lives,” Schott said.
Heavy rainfall, which can create flash flooding, will be more of a problem than wind, and coastal flooding and storm surge will be issues as Marco comes ashore.
Schott said there will be a continuous flow of water into areas across coastal Louisiana,which will enhance coastal flooding, even as Marco dissipates, courtesy of Laura, which is projected to be a Category 2 hurricane by Wednesday. The area will experience three to four days of water pushing inland, with storm surge somewhere in the 3-6 feet range, with higher amounts in some places. Marco also poses a widespread threat of tornadoes.
Marco is then expected to move slowly west and to hit the Texas state line Tuesday evening. Schott said Hurricane Laura will simultaneously be making its way toward the state, with first impacts seen as early as Tuesday night, along the southern coast. He said Laura may have a pretty significant wind punch. The storm surge along southern Louisiana could be 7-10 feet, if not higher.
Schott said meteorologists will be closely monitoring Laura as it comes off Cuba. He said above-normal sea surface temperatures could propel Laura to a stronger hurricane than currently projected. It is unlikely that there will be any surprises from Marco as far as strength before it reaches the coast Monday.
The impending landfall of Hurricane Marco has prompted evacuations and states of emergency in several Southeast Louisiana parishes.
Schott explained that the cone on forecast maps don't indicate that all the land within the cone will be impacted. Rather, there is a 66 percent chance that the storm will travel to some point within that cone. He said it's important to remember that the impacts of major storms, including heavy rain, gusty winds, coastal flooding and storm surge, happen outside that cone, also.
Edwards said Marco will mostly be a water event, but that most storm-related deaths in the state are the result of flood waters. He cautioned motorists to avoid traversing standing water if they are not completely sure how deep it is.
Schott said there have been a couple of times that multiple storms have occupied the Gulf of Mexico at the same time, the last of which was in 1950s, when one struck Florida and the other Texas. But, he said, this is first time in modern meteorological history that two have been projected to hit the same state within 48 hours of each other.
Hurricane preparation during a pandemic
Edwards said in addition to all other supplies gathered for hurricane prep, two masks per person, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes and spray — if you can find them — should be gathered.
He said congregant shelters will be used in the state only as a last result. There are buses at the ready to evacuate people, but space is limited due to virus-spacing requirements. Edwards said there were 59 deaths related to COVID-19 reported Sunday and more than 1,200 new cases. These numbers represent results since noon Friday, as the state doesn't report on Saturdays. In Calcasieu, cases were up 42 with 12 deaths.
For information on evacuation routes, visit 511La.org.