With winds 150 mph strong, Laura made landfall near Cameron, Louisiana, as a Category 4 storm early Thursday morning. It has since weakened to a Category 3 storm, with winds at 120 mph.
More than 1.5 million people were ordered to flee the coastal regions of Texas and Louisiana beginning Tuesday, after officials warned of Laura’s “unsurvivable” storm surge. However, they fear that not enough people evacuated or people were unable to leave, especially as states grapple with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Among other concerns is the inability to afford gas or transit to flee to safety. “They can’t necessarily get a hotel room, or they can’t afford the gasoline and the cost of traveling hundreds of miles out of town, or out of an evacuation zone,” former Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said in an interview with CNN.
Evacuation shelters opened with social distancing measures in place to curb infection. In Louisiana, the state took people to hotels instead of shelters because of virus concerns and added evacuation buses to the schedule to avoid crowding.
Louisiana officials are warning those who didn’t evacuate from mandatory zones before Hurricane Laura hit that rescue efforts won’t start until the surge has passed.
“Those choosing to stay and face this very dangerous storm must understand that rescue efforts cannot and will not begin until after storm and surge has passed and it is safe to do so,” the Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Thursday.
“Please evacuate, and if you choose to stay and we can’t get to you, write your name, address, social security number and next of kin and put it a Ziploc bag in your pocket. Praying that it does not come to this.”
Don’t dial 911. No one’s going to answer,” Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie said to those who didn’t leave their homes. “Know that it’s just you and God.”