Tropical storm Marco fell apart on Monday but set a chaotic stage for Laura to arrive as a potentially charged Category 3 hurricane along the US Gulf Coast.
Tropical storm Laura was south of Cuba and was not expected to weaken overland on Monday before moving into “very warm and deep” waters of the southeastern Gulf. Forecasters pointed to the ominous possibility that this “could trigger a short period of rapid intensification” and possibly reach winds in excess of 177 km / h.
“There’s definitely a chance it could be a bit stronger and a Category 3,” said Benjamin Schott, a meteorologist who heads the National Weather Service’s office in Slidell, Louisiana.
The combination of two storms could bring a historic onslaught of life-threatening winds and flooding along the coast from Texas to Alabama, forecasters said.
“What we do know is there will be a storm surge from Marco, we know the water will hardly go back before Laura hits, and that’s why we’ve never seen this before and that’s why people have to be extra careful,” Governor John Bel Edwards warned at a Sunday meeting.
Visible GOES-16 satellite image of Tropical Storm Marco (left) and Tropical Storm Laura (right) at 12:50 p.m. EDT Sunday 23rd August.
State emergencies have been declared in Louisiana and Mississippi and shelters have been opened with cots further apart. Among other things, the officials hoped to curb the coronavirus infections.
“The virus is not concerned about hurricanes coming and so it is not going to take time out and neither can we,” Edwards said.
Louisiana and Mississippi evacuates cannot forget the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when catastrophic floods broke the levees in New Orleans and killed up to 1,800 people.
August Creppel, head of the United Houma Nation, was concerned about the group’s 17,000 members, who are spread across six parishes along the Louisiana Gulf Coast. He has already contacted the Red Cross to get supplies as soon as the weather subsides.
“I am very concerned about my people,” he said. “We know our people will be hit. We just don’t know who yet.”
The double punch comes just days before Katrina’s August 29th anniversary. Creppel attended a ceremony at the Superdome in New Orleans on Saturday that included Native American singing and prayers to mark the 15th anniversary of the hurricane.
Workers climb windows in the French Quarter in anticipation of Tropical Storm Marco and Tropical Storm Laura on August 23, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Sean Gardner | Getty Images
Marco’s top winds dropped to 80 km / h and were centered about 135 km southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi, traveling northwest at 17 km / h on Monday morning. Forecasters expected it will only stay offshore on Tuesday as it weakens and dissolves, leaving a flooded coastline off Laura’s surge.
Laura’s center bypassed the south coast of Cuba on Monday after at least 11 people were killed in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, power was turned off and the two nations that share the island of Hispaniola were flooded. The deaths reportedly included a 10-year-old girl whose home was hit by a tree, and a mother and young son who were knocked down by a collapsing wall.
Laura’s most consistent wind was 100 km / h on Monday morning, but a computer model showed that Laura can gain more than 100 km / h in wind speed in the next 48 hours, which is 4.8 times the average period, the hurricane researcher said of the University of Miami, Brian McNoldy, on Monday.
The Hurricane Center predicts Laura will reach 105 mph, but admits that it could be conservative. McNoldy said he expected the storm to reach major hurricane status of at least 111 miles per hour.
“I think it can definitely bolster the official forecast,” said McNoldy.
Marco not only weakened overnight and lost hurricane status because he beheaded high winds. Its center is so chaotic and disrupted that most of the storm’s fury lies in the northeast along the Florida Panhandle, University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy said Monday.
“It seems a bit chaotic right now,” said McNoldy.
For residents of the Louisiana coast, “I’m sure they’re lucky Marco is no worse than he is,” McNoldy said. “That will come and go and you can prepare for Laura. That will be the main attraction.”
Just as the small, unorganized Marco is torn apart by wind shear, the larger, more classic Laura is about to take a bath – warm water that is the food source of a hurricane. And the winds hindering Marco won’t be a factor, McNoldy said.
Rain bands from both storms could bring a total of 0.6 meters of rain to parts of Louisiana, potentially increasing the storm surge to more than 10 feet along the Louisiana coast and pushing water 30 miles up rivers in the worst case, Schott said.
Sarah Manowitz, who runs four bars in the city’s French Quarter, also saw windows boarded up, and she brought down her own house and filled her tub with water. She stays on site and expects a “community of people” to watch out for each other in storms.
“We’re all going to help each other share food and supplies,” she said.