August 27, 2020 at 12:06 AM EDT
Warning issued for ‘extreme,’ destructive winds issued for southwestern Louisiana, southeastern Texas
By Matthew Cappucci and Andrew Freedman
A rare “Extreme Wind Warning” was issued overnight for several parishes in southwestern Louisiana as well as parts of extreme southeastern Texas until 2 a.m. Eastern time as the eyewall of Hurricane Laura moves ashore. Locations covered by the alert include Beaumont, Lake Charles, Port Arthur, Sulphur, Orange, Nederland, Groves, Port Neches, Lumberton and Vidor.
The alert, a last-ditch call to action for those who did not evacuate to seek shelter, is issued only when a major hurricane is making landfall and sustained winds will exceed 115 mph.
“Take cover now!” stated the warning. “Treat these imminent extreme winds as if a tornado was approaching and move immediately to the safe room in your shelter.”
“Take action now to protect your life!” the warning advised.
The warnings, which urge similar protective actions as tornado warnings, also trigger wireless emergency alerts to cellphones.
The onset of extreme eyewall winds may occur abruptly, arriving in a matter of minutes.
Only eight extreme wind warnings had ever been issued before Laura’s landfall, most recently on Oct. 10, 2018, as Category 5 Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend.
The eyewall is the most dangerous part of a hurricane. That’s where the most extreme winds, which can also include tornado-like vortices that produce narrow swaths of localized destruction, are found.
The concept behind the extreme wind warning was born out of necessity, when the National Weather Service in Melbourne, Fla., issued souped-up tornado warnings for the eyewalls of Hurricanes Charley and Jeanne in 2004. The same practice was implemented during Katrina. It was later decided that eyewall winds merited their own special warning.
Those in an eyewall wind warning should take care to shelter in an interior, low location that is not susceptible to storm surge flooding. The risk of coastal inundation and surge, as well as freshwater flooding, complicates the process of escaping extreme winds.