Tropical Storms Laura and Marco continue to make their way towards the Gulf of Mexico. Both storms may hit the Gulf Coast of the U.S. as hurricanes.
LAFAYETTE, Louisiana – Tropical Storm Marco grew to hurricane strength Sunday, one of two powerful storms marching toward the Gulf Coast and threatening a historic double slam of landfalls within miles of each other.
Hurricane Marco is expected to make landfall in Louisiana late Monday or early Tuesday. Tropical Storm Laura is expected to reach hurricane status before it roars into the state on Wednesday.
It could be the first time two hurricanes have swept through the Gulf of Mexico at the same time since at least 1900, Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach said.
“We have a very unique situation with two storms that unfortunately are headed to Louisiana,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Sunday. “They pose a challenge we have quite frankly not seen before.”
Edwards said residents should be ready to shelter in place for at least 72 hours. He warned that it may not be possible to deploy rescue helicopters and high-water vehicles after Marco’s storm surge if Laura comes in right behind. Edwards also said the state would prefer to use hotels rather than standard shelters because of COVID-19 concerns.
On the barrier island of Grand Isle, south of New Orleans, Starfish Restaurant manager Nicole Fantiny watched a long line of people driving off the island.
“They are all packing up and leaving,” she said. “My house was built in 1938 so I think we’re good.”
Hurricane Marco was about 300 miles south of Louisiana, powering maximum sustained winds of 75 mph as it slid to the north-northwest at 14 mph. Marco was continuing on a track for landfall in Louisiana on Monday, when it will blast parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama with storm surge, heavy rainfall and strong winds.
The storm is then expected to hook westward and possibly reach Texas as a tropical depression on Tuesday.
Tropical Storm Laura was battering the northern Caribbean on Sunday. Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez had declared a state of emergency, and FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor said his teams were “on the ground and ready to support.” Downpours and gusty winds drenched the island, and nearly 6 inches of rain fell in some areas, prompting flood warnings.
Laura was forecast to sweep over the waters of the southeastern Gulf of Mexico late Monday into Tuesday.
“Environmental conditions will be more favorable for strengthening, and Laura is expected to become a hurricane prior to reaching the Gulf Coast,” Accuweather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller warned. Landfall could come sometime Wednesday.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves also declared a state of emergency.
“We are in unprecedented times,” Reeves said. “We are dealing with not only two potential storms in the next few hours, we are also dealing with COVID-19.”
The storms could keep on coming as tropical waves continue to emerge off the coast of Africa, according to Accuweather Meteorologist Bernie Rayno. The heart of the 2020 hurricane season, which is just getting underway, is expected to be extremely active, he said.
The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season already has been a record-breaker. Laura is the earliest L-named storm in the Atlantic Basin, breaking a record held by Luis, which formed on Aug. 29, 1995. The 2020 season has had 13 named storms, two reaching hurricane status, well above normal activity for a hurricane season.
Bacon reported from McLean, Va. Contributing: The Associated Press
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