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Laura reaches hurricane status, NHC warns winds could reach 120 mph before making landfall

Storm expected to make landfall Wednesday night/Thursday morning
Laura nears hurricane status as it gains strength in the Gulf of Mexico
Posted at 4:20 AM, Aug 25, 2020

The Gulf Coast appears to have dodged a bullet after Marco — once a tropical storm — collapsed into a post-tropical cyclone as it neared the Louisiana coast. But the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warns that the region faces a more substantial threat in Hurricane Laura.

Just after 8 a.m. on Tuesday, the NHC reported that Laura had officially strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of over 74 mph. As part of the agency's 11 p.m.. ET update, the storm is expected to reach the Louisiana or Texas coast by late Wednesday evening or early Thursday morning. By the time it reaches the coast, the NHC forecasts that the storm could be a Major Category 3 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 120 MPH.

At 11 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Hurricane Laura had top winds of 90 MPH, and was located 405 miles southeast of Lake Charles, Louisiana. The storm is moving west-northwest at 17 MPH.

The storm has already proven to be deadly. Haiti's Civil Protection Agency reports that 21 people were killed as the then tropical storm passed over the nation.

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The NHC said Tuesday that the system could bring life-threatening storm on the Gulf Coast from as far west as San Luis Pass, Texas to as far east as Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

The agency also warned that an inland region of the south-central United States could face flash floods and urban floods by the end of the week and into the weekend.

A hurricane watch is currently in effect across the Gulf Coast, between Port Bolivar, Texas, to the west of Morgan City, Louisiana. The city of Galveston, Texas has already announced a mandatory evacuation and has ordered anyone within the city to leave and move inland by noon on Tuesday.