As twin hurricanes threatened the Caribbean and U.S. Gulf Coast, U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday (August 23) called it an “unprecedented” threat, as Hurricane Marco is forecast to hit the Louisiana coast on Monday.
It will be followed by Tropical Storm Laura, now over the Dominican Republic and Haiti and heading toward Cuba, and expected strengthen to a hurricane before striking the Gulf Coast on Thursday.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards on Sunday warned the state’s residents that tropical storm-force winds would arrive by Monday morning and they should be ready to ride out both Marco and Laura.
Laura could strengthen and become a Category 2 or 3 hurricane and move west, closer to the Houston-Galveston area, bringing flooding rains late Wednesday or Thursday, said Chris Kerr, a meteorologist and director of offshore forecasting for DTN, an energy, agriculture and weather data provider.
Back-to-back hurricanes arriving at the U.S. coast within days “could result in a prolonged period of hazardous weather,” National Hurricane Center forecaster Stacy Stewart warned on Sunday.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent teams to emergency operations centers in state capitals in Louisiana and Texas, said spokesman Earl Armstrong. The agency is prepared to handle back-to-back storms, he said, pointing to 2004 when four hurricanes took aim at Florida in a six-week period.
Officials in Louisiana’s coastal Lafourche Parish ordered a mandatory evacuation for residents of low-lying areas at noon on Sunday. The U.S. Coast Guard also raised its warning for the Port of New Orleans, calling for ships to make plans to evacuate some areas.
The potential for flooding and evacuations added to worries about the spread of COVID-19. Tulane University, the largest private employer in New Orleans, said it will close its testing center on Monday due to potential flooding and power outages and called on students to maintain social distancing guidelines.