Hurricane Laura makes landfall in the US

By Meg Wagner, Judson Jones, Mike Hayes, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton and Amy Woodyatt, CNN

Updated 8:38 a.m. ET, August 27, 2020
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5:16 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Hurricane Laura strengthens and is forecast to hit 150 mph at landfall

From CNN's Brandon Miller 

Hurricane Laura continues to strengthen this afternoon, with up to 145 mph sustained winds in the storm, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 5 p.m. advisory.

The storm is located 155 miles south of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and is moving northwest at 15 mph. 

Landfall is expected shortly after midnight central time with top winds of 150 mph. This will make Laura a high-end Category 4 storm, only 7 mph away from a Category 5 storm.

4:39 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Record flooding forecast for Lake Charles in Louisiana

From CNN Meteorologists Haley Brink, Brandon Miller and Dave Hennen

Major flooding is expected across Lake Charles, Louisiana, beginning this afternoon and lasting through tomorrow morning, which is likely to topple a record from over 100 years ago.

The Calcasieu River, which runs through Lake Charles, is currently forecast to rise to 15.6 feet by tomorrow morning. This would surpass the previous record of 13 feet — which was set on Oct. 1, 1913. When the river reaches 13 feet, “over half of the city of Lake Charles is flooded," according to data from the National Weather Service.

The river gauge is currently around 4.5 feet, meaning the water level is expected to rise by more than 10 feet by 7 a.m. CT tomorrow morning. The extreme rise in water level will result from the major storm surge from Hurricane Laura pushing up into the river, combined with rainfall totals expected to reach 10 inches. 

The river level reached 11 feet in September 2008 when Hurricane Ike hit. 

4:31 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

It's not the first time a dire warning has been said to describe a storm in this region

From CNN's Gene Norman

The National Hurricane Center today described the storm surge from Laura as "unsurvivable."

The language is reminiscent of the dire warning issued in this part of the Gulf when Hurricane Ike, in 2008, threatened Galveston. At that time, the National Weather Service office in Houston advised those choosing to stay to write their social security numbers on their arms. 

The water is already rising rapidly from the storm surge, well ahead of this dangerous hurricane. 

You can see exactly how fast using this interactive map. Zoom into one of the glowing pin drops along the Gulf coast to see details.

4:35 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Here's what Laura looks like from the window of the International Space Station

Chris Cassidy/NASA
Chris Cassidy/NASA

Chris Cassidy, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, took photos of Hurricane Laura from the station.

The images show the massive storm churning in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Stay safe everyone," he tweeted.

4:28 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Galveston, Texas, is prepared for Hurricane Laura, city official says

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch 

The city of Galveston, Texas, is prepared for Hurricane Laura, Mayor Pro Tem Craig Brown said in a news conference today. 

Brown said there are no plans to put a checkpoint on the causeway to Galveston Island, but that could change depending on damage from the hurricane.

Crews will be out all night until it is unsafe to do so, and back out once the storm passes, he said.

Brown said even if power goes out, they hope to have residents back into the city as soon as Thursday morning, depending on how hard they get hit. 

For those who did not heed the evacuation order, emergency services might not be able to get to them if they were to need assistance during the storm, he said.

A curfew is in effect for Wednesday and Thursday from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. each night, Brown said.

4:09 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Tornado watch issued for much of Louisiana and southeastern Texas

A tornado watch has been issued for much of Louisiana and far southeastern Texas on Wednesday afternoon by the Storm Prediction Center.

The watch is in effect until 9 p.m. CT and stretches from New Orleans in the east to just west of Beaumont and Port Arthur. 

Some context: The outer bands of Hurricane Laura are bringing a risk of tornadoes to a wide area, and that risk will likely persist even after the watch is due to expire. 

Tornadoes are common in landfalling hurricanes and tropical storms, especially when the storms are making landfall along the Gulf of Mexico. They are often short-lived and can spin-up very quickly with little warning

4:26 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Water levels rising rapidly and winds picking up in Louisiana

From CNN's Brandon Miller

A Cameron Parish Sheriff deputy wipes his face as he mans a roadblock in the rain on LA 27 while residents evacuate Cameron in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Wednesday, August 26, ahead of Hurricane Laura.
A Cameron Parish Sheriff deputy wipes his face as he mans a roadblock in the rain on LA 27 while residents evacuate Cameron in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Wednesday, August 26, ahead of Hurricane Laura. Gerald Herbert/AP

Water levels along the coast of Louisiana are rising rapidly on Wednesday afternoon as dangerous Hurricane Laura approaches. Water levels at several locations along the central and western coastline of Louisiana are running three to four feet above normal tidal levels, despite the center of the hurricane being nearly 150 miles south.

Eugene Island, located south of Morgan City, Louisiana, is reporting 3.2 feet of inundation above ground level, and wind gusts over 40 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Conditions will continue to deteriorate through the afternoon and especially during the evening, with tropical storm-force-winds becoming widespread between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET and hurricane-force winds around midnight ET and lasting through to around daybreak. 

Water levels will rise rapidly later this evening as well, likely peaking in the early morning hours.  

3:47 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

What Hurricane Laura looks like from above 

From CNN's Christina Zdanowicz 

NOAA hurricane hunter Nick Underwood captured video of the crew making one of five passes over Hurricane Laura on Wednesday.

“Central pressure dropped and wind speeds increased with each pass,” Underwood wrote on Twitter.

He also shared a time-lapse video of the crew’s fifth pass over Hurricane Laura.

Read his tweet and see the footage:

3:43 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Hurricane Laura could also produce tornadoes when it makes landfall

From CNN's Allison Chinchar

In addition to catastrophic storm surge, damaging winds and heavy rain, Laura will also likely produce several tornadoes and waterspouts.

"Hurricanes and tropical storms that make landfall in the Gulf of Mexico are more likely to produce tornadoes compared to storms in the Atlantic," explains Brandon Miller, CNN meteorologist.

Tornadoes are possible within the area shaded in red. 
Tornadoes are possible within the area shaded in red. 

But remember: Not all coastlines on the Gulf of Mexico are equally threatened.

"Note that this is less true for Texas landfalls in the Gulf — since the coastline angles more south to north like the Atlantic East Coast, rather than east to west like in the northern Gulf of Mexico coastline of LA/MS/AL/FL Panhandle," Miller clarified.

In other words, a tropical system that landfalls in Louisiana, which looks likely for Laura, could produce a few more tornadoes than a landfall in say, Galveston, Texas.

You can read more here.