Calcasieu Parish has issued a mandatory evacuation for all residents.
The Calcasieu Parish Executive Policy Group (Police Jury President, mayors of the six Calcasieu municipalities and the sheriff) held a press briefing this morning. You can watch the whole thing below.
"What a difference a day makes," said Bryan Beam, parish administrator.
Andy Patrick, the chief meteorologist for the NWS Lake Charles, said Laura is a Category 1 Hurricane as of 10 a.m.
" We have some significant changes to the track; looks like it's going to move westward and then northwestward across the Gulf of Mexico," Patrick said. "We're expecting Laura to arrive in southeast Texas or southwest Louisiana sometime Wednesday night."
The tropical storm force winds will come sometime Wednesday afternoon or later Wednesday evening, he said. Everyone should expect increasing rain chances today; Wednesday is when things start turning downhill, Patrick said.
It is taking a "Rita-like" track, he said, and "we could see significant impact with winds and storm surge."
"One of the differences we're seeing, this storm is going to move a lot quicker," Patrick said. "So the hurricane-force winds are going last less time, but we may see some lingering storm surge issues, especially across the communities of Calcasieu Parish."
Dick Gremillion, director of the parish's emergency operations, announced the mandatory evacuation that has been issued for all of Calcasieu Parish. People who leave should go north, he said.
Mandatory evacuation order applies to the public in general. All non-essential personnel must leave the area immediately, he said. Critical or essential workforce are exempt, but they are expected to seek shelter prior to the onset of the emergency conditions, he said.
"This situation has changed from a situation where we recommended that you can stay, to now, where we're saying this is shaping up to be a very dangerous storm," Gremillion said. "Storm surge in the order of 9 to 13 feet above ground. As a reference point, that's probably a couple feet more than either Rita or Ike."
There will be buses for people who need them; residents will be taken to another location to catch other buses to be evacuated to shelters elsewhere in the state.
There will be no shelters opened in Calcasieu Parish, he said.
Beam said this is a dangerous storm, in terms of wind and water, and that's why the mandatory evacuation has been issued.
Sheriff Tony Mancuso said the jail is being evacuated.
"That should be a good clue," he said. "Think about your family, and the safety of your family, and your safety."
He said nobody is going to come drag anyone out of their home.
"But I want you to understand that there is going to come a point where we can't come help you, and you may be on your own for an extended period of time," Mancuso said. "It breaks my heart to even say that, because our job is to protect people, to save people, to come to their aid. But there be a duration of time where we cannot do that for you. You look to us for guidance, and you look to us to protect you, and we're going to do that, but you have to do your part, too."
Unlike the pandemic, where we're learning as we go, Mancuso said his people know what to do about hurricanes. If you're worried about your property, don't be, because the jail will "have plenty of room" and his deputies will have zero tolerance for people who get out of line.
"We're going to protect your property," he said.
Mancuso also said there will be no road blocks keeping people out of the parish after the storm.
"You will be able to get back in, we've changed that policy. You will be able to get back to your property," he said.
Starting tomorrow, Wednesday, August 26 at 6:00 a.m. CPSO will have a call center that will be manned 24/7 for non-emergency concerns or issues. The numbers to call are (337) 491-8068 and (337) 491-3685. Please only call these phone lines if you need hurricane-related information. If you have an emergency or assistance, please call 911.
Follow CPSO on Twitter @CalcasieuSO or on Facebook for continued updates and information on Hurricane Laura.
Here's the video: