This story was last updated Monday evening. For Tuesday’s updates on Laura, see: Laura intensifying in Gulf of Mexico, threatens major hurricane strike in Texas and Louisiana

After raking the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba, Tropical Storm Laura entered the Gulf of Mexico late Monday evening where it is poised to strengthen to a hurricane by Tuesday and then pose a serious threat to the coasts of Louisiana and Texas by midweek.

Computer models suggest that Laura could tap the exceptionally warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and intensify into a large and dangerous hurricane.

Laura is forecast to make landfall late Wednesday or early Thursday as Category 2 or 3 storm with winds of 110 mph in the zone from near Galveston, Tex., to just west of Morgan City, La., where hurricane watches have been posted. Houston is under a tropical storm watch.

The National Hurricane Center is forecasting a “life-threatening” rise in water above normally dry land at the coast that could cause 7 to 11 feet of inundation. It issued storm surge watches from just southwest of Houston to coastal Mississippi. In addition, the storm is forecast to unload 4 to 8 inches of rain when it comes ashore and up to a foot in some areas, causing flash flooding.

While producing some areas of heavy rain along the northern Gulf Coast, the prior storm of concern, Marco, fell apart Monday due to wind shear. It was downgraded to a tropical depression late in the evening after making landfall as a minimal tropical storm at the mouth of the Mississippi River in southeast Louisiana.

The latest developments

  • For Laura, hurricane watches are in effect for Port Bolivar, Tex., to west of Morgan City, La., while tropical storm warnings cover the western third of Cuba, and parts of the Florida Keys. Storm surge watches span from San Luis Pass, Tex., to Ocean Springs, Miss., including Lake Pontchartrain.
  • For Marco, all tropical storm and storm surge warnings were discontinued, although its remnants may dump 1 to 3 inches of additional rain across the north-central Gulf Coast and Southeast through Wednesday.