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Hurricane Laura slammed ashore in southwestern coastal Louisiana early Thursday with a ferocity that this region has never previously endured. The storm made landfall at 1 a.m. near Cameron, La., about 35 miles east of the Texas border.

The storm, which leaped from a Category 1 on Tuesday to a high-end Category 4 Wednesday night, packed 150 mph peak winds when it crossed the coast.

Laura struck near high tide and is predicted to inundate coastal areas of western Louisiana to the Texas border in up to 15 to 20 feet of water, perhaps the largest storm surge in the Gulf of Mexico since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The surge threat prompted a mandatory evacuation for Lake Charles, La., where much of the city of 78,000 may flood. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) announced that he has activated the entire Louisiana National Guard to help with hurricane response.

Laura was beginning to unleash a swath of destructive winds when it made landfall, with “catastrophic damage” expected, according to the National Hurricane Center, along with widespread power outages. Hurricane-force winds could extend well inland over western Louisiana and East Texas on Thursday morning.

Heavy rain was predicted to be widespread across the west-central Gulf Coast with five to 10 inches falling over a broad area, and locally up to 18 inches, leading to flash flooding.

The latest developments:

  • The National Weather Service issued an “extreme wind warning” from Beaumont and Port Arthur in Texas to coastal southwest Louisiana for destructive hurricane-force winds. Cameron, La., clocked a wind gust to 116 mph, while Lake Charles recorded a gust to 132 mph.
  • 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 nine feet had been observed in parts of coastal southwest Louisiana.