Gov. John Bel Edwards gave two press briefings on Tropical Storms Marco and Laura and their possible impacts on the state Monday.
"All eyes from this point forward will be on Laura," said Edwards after saying that Marco had fizzled out and was not even a part of his 4 p.m. briefing with with state officials.
The governor said that Laura is now forecast to become either a weak Category 2 or strong Category 1 hurricane when it makes landfall either late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
Edwards said that Laura is a very large, power storm and that his team is monitoring it as it clears Cuba and enters the Gulf of Mexico.
Edwards encouraged residents not to become fixated on the forecast cone of the storm and said that a third of the time a storm will make landfall outside of the cone.
He also said that a majority of damage from a storm happens outside of the cone.
According to Edwards, with the current track of the storm they predict tropical storm force winds from Baton Rouge to Houston with hurricane force winds possible.
Edwards also reminded residents that this storm has the potential for sustained winds of 100-110 MPH and that the eastern side of a storm is typically where the most damage is seen.
Edwards said his team predicts that the state will have a storm surge watch from the Texas line to the Atchafalaya River.
Edwards also said that the storm is now forecast to have between 7 - 11 feet of storm surge.
He said that rivers may not empty as fast as they usually should.
Edwards said that the amount of rain dumped on the state could be between 5 - 10 inches with as much as 15 inches being possible in certain isolated areas.
Edwards said that the good news from Laura is that it is anticipated to move quickly and should be out of the state's backdoor within 12 hours of making landfall.
"Laura cases me to have tremendous concern," said Edwards. "We need to take precautions and take this one seriously."
The governor also said he expects to see changes made in South Louisiana in the next 24 hours with regard to voluntary and even mandatory evacuations in the Southwest Louisiana area.
He said that statewide offices will reopen tomorrow in areas that are not under evacuation orders.
Edwards said that the state's enhanced unemployment benefit checks are still expected to go out starting Wednesday.
The governor's second press conference held at 6 p.m. can be viewed below:
Marco may have fizzled, but Edwards urged residents not to assume Laura will do the same.
"That's the big message here: the strength of this hurricane is going to be akin to Rita," Edwards said of Laura.
Edwards said he's listening to the meteorolgists and continuing to pray. He said there was no indication yesterday that Marco would diminish at it has, and he's "happy to attribute that to prayer."
But he cautioned people against letting their guard down.
"We were always told, between Marco and Laura, the greatest threat was going to come from Laura, and that appears to be the case now," he said. "The good news is, there aren't going to be two hurricanes, and we have more time to prepare for what it will do to our state."
Edwards said the other good news is that the eastern part of the state won't be in as much danger, if the current forecast holds.
Laura is forecasted to be a strong Cat 2, he said. Experts are watching the storm closely now to see how it reacts as it crosses Cuba, he said.
There's no indication that the shear that diminished Marco will repeat itself, so Laura is expected to strengthen as it sits in the warm Gulf waters, he said.
Emergency officials in North Louisiana are being looped in today, and the state emergency office is working with South Louisiana officials to make sure they have what they need, he said.
Gates are being closed, pumps are being used and the National Guard has mobilized to provide support with high-water vehicles, food and water.
More than 1,300 inmates have been evacauted from Plaquemines, St. Mary, Terrebonne and Vermilion parishes, he said.
COVID testing sites are closed today and tomorrow, but will be re-opened as soon as possible, he said. On the topic of COVID, he said the state's positivity rate is down to 8 percent which is good - it's down from the previous rates that exceeded the CDC's benchmark of 10 percent.
"We do want to remind people that as you prepare for these storms, there's still an awful lot of COVID out there, and that should influence everything you do in preparing, and it also should inform the decisions you make should you need to shelter," he said.
Congregant shelters will remain a last resort, he said.
On the issue of the supplemental federal unemployment payments, Edwards said he still hopes those checks will be in the mail by the end of this week. He said he'll hope to have an update to let people know what day the checks will go out.
Press conferences will be held at 11:30 am and 6:00 pm on Monday, August 24.
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