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Hurricane Laura strikes Louisiana as Category 4 storm, battering Lake Charles area and bringing flood threat

The Post's Matthew Cappucci on Aug. 27 toured the damage left in Sulpur, La., by Hurricane Laura. (Video: The Washington Post)
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Hurricane Laura slammed southern Louisiana early Thursday as a Category 4 storm, one of the most powerful to strike the Gulf Coast in decades. The storm made landfall at 1 a.m. near Cameron, La., about 35 miles east of the Texas border.

Downtown Lake Charles, La., took a heavy hit, with widespread destruction from Laura’s devastating winds. Roofs were peeled off, buildings were destroyed, and lampposts were tossed into the streets. An industrial plant that makes chlorine-based products nearby was on fire, sending caustic smoke throughout the area and leading to a shelter-in-place order.

The storm, which leaped from a Category 1 hurricane on Tuesday to a high-end Category 4 on Wednesday night, packed 150 mph peak winds when it crossed the coast. The storm weakened and was downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane Thursday morning as it headed northward, but it still had sustained winds of more than 100 mph.

The latest developments:

  • Lake Charles, La., had issued mandatory evacuations on Wednesday. There was major damage to buildings in the city’s downtown area, which endured the brunt of the storm’s eyewall.
  • A suspected chemical cloud emanating from an industrial area along the highway has shut down Interstate 10 outside of Lake Charles and has led to a shelter-in-place order in Sulphur, La., where authorities are warning people to stay indoors with their windows closed. Authorities said the fire was at a plant that makes chlorine-based products.
  • Laura’s rate of intensification between Tuesday and Wednesday tied for the fastest on record in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The Hurricane Center said storm surge inundation could be “unsurvivable,” affecting areas up 40 miles inland from the coast in southwest Louisiana and that floodwaters may not fully recede for several days after the storm. As of 5 a.m., a surge over 9 feet had been observed in parts of coastal southwest Louisiana.
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Lake Charles, La., had issued mandatory evacuations on Wednesday. There was major damage to buildings in the city’s downtown area, which endured the brunt of the storm’s eyewall.
A suspected chemical cloud emanating from an industrial area along the highway has shut down Interstate 10 outside of Lake Charles and has led to a shelter-in-place order in Sulphur, La., where authorities are warning people to stay indoors with their windows closed. Authorities said the fire was at a plant that makes chlorine-based products.
Laura’s rate of intensification between Tuesday and Wednesday tied for the fastest on record in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Hurricane Center said storm surge inundation could be “unsurvivable,” affecting areas up 40 miles inland from the coast in southwest Louisiana and that floodwaters may not fully recede for several days after the storm. As of 5 a.m., a surge over 9 feet had been observed in parts of coastal southwest Louisiana.

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