Laura now forecast to be a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane

GALVESTON, TEXAS (AP) — Forecasters Hurricane Laura is now expected to rapidly power up into a ‘catastrophic’ Category 4 hurricane — an even stronger storm than previously expected — as it churns toward Texas and Louisiana, gathering wind and water that now covers much of the Gulf of Mexico.

Satellite images show that Laura has become “a formidable hurricane” in recent hours, threatening to smash homes and sink entire communities. It has undergone a remarkable intensification, “and there are no signs it will stop soon, with shear remaining low-to-moderate over the deep warm waters of the central Gulf of Mexico,” the National Hurricane Center said in a briefingearly yesterday.

Laura’s maximum sustained winds have increased to near 175kph with higher gusts, forecasters said early yesterday.

“We are expecting widespread power outages, trees down. Homes and businesses will be damaged,” said Donald Jones, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Lake Charles, Louisiana, which is near the bullseye of Laura’s forecast track.

“I’m telling you, this is going to be a very serious situation,” Jones said.

John Prekosovich and Joel Canales load a portable generator into a customer’s vehicle at a Home Depot store. PHOTO: AP