Gov. John Bel Edwards held a press briefing Wednesday morning to address the threat of Hurricane Laura and the preparations underway ahead of the storm making landfall early Thursday morning.
Edwards warned that the storm will be "unsurvivable" in some areas and will cause "catastrophic damage" in others.
He strongly encouraged everyone in the low lying areas of the state, whether they live in an area with either a mandatory or voluntary evacuation order, to consider leaving as soon as possible as the window to travel on many roads in the state will be closing soon.
Weather conditions across much of the southern part of the state are expected to degrade over the later part of the day on Wednesday.
Edwards also announced that he will be extending the Phase 2 restrictions across the state for two more weeks after his current executive order expires on Friday, Aug. 28.
The governor said that testing across the state has been delayed due to preparations ahead of Laura. He said that the state is "blind" when it comes to measuring the spread of COVID-19 at a critical time after classes have resumed in many K-12 and university settings.
The governor urged residents to pay close attention to the storm and take it seriously.
"If you think you’re safe, you must understand that this storm is going to be more powerful than [Hurricane] Rita as it approaches the coast," Edwards said. "The storm surge is higher and winds will be higher. Even if you built back better after Rita, this storm is stronger."
He said that transportation on the ground level will be ultra hazardous as weather conditions degrade in South Louisiana over the course of Wednesday.
He said that road congestion on I-10 was not bad at the time of his press briefing at 11:30 a.m., with traffic still flowing freely on I-10.
The governor said that the entire Louisiana National Guard has been activated for the first time in several years.
Ben Shot with the National Weather Service New Orleans office said that Laura is a large and deadly storm with winds that will extend for 60 miles from the center of the storm.
He said that Laura will make landfall with winds on a sustained level of 145 mph, gusts up to and over 170 mph.
Shot said that the wind threat is serious for those in Southwest and West Louisiana with tropical storm force winds covering a significant portion of the state that could extend from Baton Rouge into Texas.
Hurricane force winds are expected to extend into Alexandra, west to Lufkin, Texas.
Shot said storm surge flooding across portions of Southwest Louisiana is expected to be unsurvivable with inundation up to 18-20 ft at its highest point above ground when Laura makes landfall.
A strengthening Laura is now expected to reach Category 4 strength later Wednesday afternoon, before making landfall as a strong Category 3 storm in Cameron Parish with winds up at 120 mph.
The storm is in the process of developing a well defined eye and it should be apparent by the middle of the day on Wednesday, indicating that Laura is rapidly intensifying.
You can watch the briefing below.
Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere.
To reach the newsroom or report a typo/correction, click HERE.
Sign up for newsletters emailed to your inbox. Select from these options: Breaking News, Evening News Headlines, Latest COVID-19 Headlines, Morning News Headlines, Special Offers