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Gov. Edwards Urges Calcasieu and Cameron Parishes To ‘Evacuate Now’ Ahead of Hurricane Laura

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NOAA

Time is running out for those living in areas in the direct path of Hurricane Laura, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday.

He urged anyone living in an area with a mandatory or voluntary evacuation order to leave immediately.

“I don’t think there has ever been a press conference where it was my intention to convey the sense of urgency that I’m trying to convey right now,” Edwards said.

Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for Calcasieu and Cameron parishes ahead of Hurricane Laura’s arrival later today. Laura strengthened to a Category 4 hurricane Wednesday afternoon and is expected to make landfall at the Louisiana-Texas border tonight.

Laura is forecast to create “unsurvivable” storm surge that will cause “catastrophic damage” from Sea Rim State Park, Texas, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana, according to the National Hurricane Center. In these areas, storm surge could be 10 to 15 feet high.

Edwards said the last time Louisiana experienced storm surge this deadly was during Hurricane Audrey in 1957. Because most Louisianans have never experienced a storm of this magnitude, Edwards said he’s afraid people who made it through Hurricane Rita in 2005 may be lulled into a false sense of security until it's too late.

“If you think you’re safe because you made it through Rita in southwest Louisiana, understand that this storm is going to be more powerful,” Edwards said. “Even if you built back stronger and you’re up at 15 feet elevation, understand that the storm surge is expected to be 18 to 20 feet in the immediate area where this storm makes landfall.”

Laura is expected to hit overnight, which means if people try to evacuate after the storm makes landfall they’ll be in even more danger than if they shelter in place, Edwards said. That’s why people need to evacuate now.

According to Edwards, tens of thousands of people have already evacuated. The majority have their own cars and have not required state assistance, but some have been temporarily rehoused by the state in contracted hotels and motel rooms.

Last night the state sheltered 800 people in hotels. Tonight, Edwards said he expects that number to be closer to 2,000 and after the storm, the number should balloon as people are rescued from homes that are no longer habitable.

Edwards said they are avoiding opening shelters due to the coronavirus, but may have to do so temporarily. Louisiana’s National Guard has been fully mobilized for the first time in years to assist with hurricane relief.

Aubri Juhasz is the education reporter for New Orleans Public Radio. Before coming to New Orleans, she was a producer for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. She helped lead the show's technology and book coverage and reported her own feature stories, including the surge in cycling deaths in New York City and the decision by some states to offer competitive video gaming to high school students as an extracurricular activity.

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