Hurricane Laura brings tornado threat after Louisiana landfall, Lake Charles 'severely damaged'

By Travis Fedschun, Janice Dean | Fox News

Hurricane Laura made landfall in Cameron, La., with 150 mph winds.

Heavy rains and winds battered Louisiana Thursday morning as a weakening Hurricane Laura roared northward, threatening to spread further damage well inland after slamming the Lake Charles area and causing at least one death.

The historic Hurricane Laura made landfall early Thursday in Cameron, about 45 miles south of Lake Charles, as a dangerous Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 150 mph.

“As we wake up today, everyone must remember that the threat  Laura poses to Louisiana is ongoing,” Lousiana Gov. John Bel Edwards tweeted Thursday morning. “Stay home, continue to heed the warnings and instructions of local officials and monitor your local news to stay informed.”

The first fatality from the storm in Lousiana was a 14-year-old girl who died when a tree fell on her home, according to the governor.

“We do expect that there could be more fatalities,” Edward’s Deputy Chief of Staff Christina Stephens tweeted.

Stephens said the girl died in the town of Leesville, located in Vernon Parish.

“That’s not along the coast. Hurricane Laura’s winds have been very strong as the storm has come ashore and through Louisiana,” she tweeted.

As the storm roared into Louisiana, a 133 mph gust and an 85 mph sustained wind were measured in Lake Charles.

HURRICANE LAURA SEEN BURSTING WITH LIGHTNING IN NOAA’S SATELLITE IMAGERY

A 127 mph wind gust was measured at Calcasieu Pass, La., and a sustained wind of 93 mph was measured around 5 a.m. local time in Cameron on the backside of the storm.

Hurricane Laura can be seen after making landfall along the Louisiana coast on Aug. 27, 2020. (NOAA/GOES-East)

In Lake Charles, which took a direct hit, skyscrapers were without glass, while pieces of sheet metal and roofing were seen throughout city streets.

A photo from the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal shows the damage in Lake Charles after the worst of the storm passed.

Storm chaser Stephen Jones told “Fox & Friends First” that Hurricane Laura came into Lake Charles with “just as much fury” as it had over the Gulf of Mexico.

“This entire city is severely damaged,” he said.

A building that was damaged overnight by Hurricane Laura stands in Lake Charles, La., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. (Stephen Jones via AP)

Storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski shared a photo of major damage to one skyscraper in the city.

“Some of the building may be total losses. Many roof off massive flying debris,” he tweeted.

There were also reports of some injuries downtown.

“Flying glass from some of the skyscrapers fell on people don’t know the extent of the injuries,” Piotrowski said.

Hurricane Laura makes landfall near Cameron, Louisiana

Authorities had ordered coastal residents to get out, but not everyone did in an area that was devastated by Rita in 2005.

“There are some people still in town and people are calling … but there ain’t no way to get to them,” Tony Guillory, president of the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, told the Associated Press early Thursday morning over the phone as he hunkered down in a Lake Charles government building that was shaking from the storm.

Dustin Amos walks near debris at a gas station on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, in Lake Charles, La., after Hurricane Laura moved through the state. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Guillory said he hopes stranded people can be rescued later Thursday but fears that blocked roads, downed power lines and flooding could get in the way.

Other videos from the area showed road signs bending, trees shaking violently and a large recreational vehicle being blown over.

FEMA HEAD WARNS OF ‘UNSURVIVABLE SURGE’ FROM HURRICANE LAURA, TELLS RESIDENTS TO ‘GET OUT’

In Cameron Parish, where Laura came ashore, officials said at least 150 people refused pleas to leave and planned to weather the storm in everything from elevated homes to recreational vehicles. The result could be deadly since forecasters said the parish could be completely covered by ocean water with an “unsurvivable” storm surge of up to 20 feet.

Chad Wolf says ‘next 48 hours are going to be critical’ in aftermath of Hurricane Laura

“It’s a very sad situation,” said Ashley Buller, assistant director of emergency preparedness. “We did everything we could to encourage them to leave.”

Officials said search missions and damage assessments would begin when conditions allow it.

“We know anyone that stayed that close to the coast, we’ve got to pray for them, because looking at the storm surge, there would be little chance of survival,” Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser told ABC’s Good Morning America.

More than 600,000 electric customers are without power in Texas and Louisiana, according to power-outage tracking website poweroutage.us.

Dick Gremillion, the emergency director in Calcasieu Parish, said hours after landfall that they hadn’t been able to get out and look for damage.

“The wind is still over 50 mph. It’s going to have to drop significantly before they can even run any emergency calls. We also need daylight,” Gremillion said in an interview with KPLC-TV.

Dustin Amos, right, walks near debris at a gas station on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, in Lake Charles, La., after Hurricane Laura moved through the state. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) said on Facebook that high tide had passed, but the storm’s strong winds “are not allowing water to recede.”

Video from the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office showed water rising still rising over LA 1 as winds from Laura still pushed water in from the south.

“This is the highest it’s been, BUT this is outside the South Lafourche Levee System and we’ve had much worse in the past. We’re definitely counting our blessings this morning,” Lt. Brennan Matherne tweeted.

Laura’s danger continues as the storm moves north

The forecast track of Hurricane Laura. (Fox News)

Laura, now a Category 2 hurricane as of 7 a.m. EDT,  will continue to move north and weaken on Thursday while still bringing the risk of strong winds, heavy rainfall, some storm surge, tornadoes, tree damage and power outages.

The tornado threat through late Thursday from Hurricane Laura. (Fox News)

Rainfall totals of 5 to 10 inches, with isolated amounts of 15 inches, are possible over Central and Western Louisiana.

The flood threat on Thursday from Hurricane Laura. (Fox News)

Parts of Arkansas will receive 3 to 7 inches, with isolated totals of up to 10 inches from the storm’s heavy rains.

Locally heavy rain is also possible from the mid-Mississippi valleys into the Ohio and Tennessee valleys and the central Appalachians late Friday into Saturday.

Forecast precipitation amounts from Hurricane Laura. (Fox News)

These areas could receive 2 to 4 inches of rainfall, with up to 6 inches in some spots.

The storm will still be with us Friday and even into the weekend bringing the risk for heavy rain, strong winds and thunderstorms into parts of the Tennessee and Ohio Valley then into the MidAtlantic and Northeast as a depression or post-tropical low.
 
Fox News’ Brie Stimson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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