Laura's impact to be felt well outside projected 'cone'

Edwards says state is prepared for storm's worst; Decision on COVID Phase 2 to be made Wednesday

While the "cone" of Hurricane Laura's projected path has shifted to the Louisiana-Texas border, Gov. John Bel Edwards said the storm's effect will be felt well outside of that shaded area on storm maps. In his press conference Tuesday evening, Edwards noted that hurricane-force winds might be felt as far west as Alexandria during the day and could be at or near hurricane strength almost to Shreveport, when it will diminish to a sttrong tropical storm before exiting the state into Arkansas.

Edwards said there have been mandatory evacuation orders in Cameron and Calcasieu parishes, as well as other areas of South Louisiana.

Laura is expected to come ashore at about 1 a.m.Thursday as a Catgory 3 hurricane. It will have "life-threatening storm surges" and winds capable of causing "catastrophic damage," officials noted during the press conference. Edwards said the state is prepared for the worst Laura can dish out, and in his press conference he painted a fairly vivid picture of just how bad that might be.

Edwards said those moving to safer ground need to leave early enough Wednesday to be where they plan to ride out the storm by noon. The situation, especially on the Gulf Coast, will deteriorate rapidly after noon, he said.

The governor said that solely as a point of reference, Laura appears to resemble 2005's Hurricane Rita in severity.

Viewers of the press conference were reminded not to drive through standing water. Many deaths in the nation and state result from accidents involving flooded roadways.

Edwards said this storm effort is complicated by COVID-19, but is being handled. FEMA has allowed the use of hotel and motel rooms in lieu of evacuation shelters, although shelters may be used as a last resort.

Edwards said those moving to safer locations should look at the eastern part of the state, away from the storm's path.

The governor said he has been looking at the data on COVID as the current Phase 2 proclamation expires Friday. He said he wants "to be sure the decision is correct."

That decision on whether Phase 2 is extended again or the state enters Phase 3 will be announced Wednesday, Edwards said.

During his press conference, Edwards said the state is still seeing over 100 new COVID cases per 100,000 population, which is too high.

Laura could exacerbate the state's COVID problems. Lake Charles and Cameron have the state's highest positivity rate and will also have the most evacuees from the storm. Edwards urged everyone to treat people as if they have COVID. A recent study indicates 60 percent of those who test positive for the virus do not exhibit symptoms but can still spread the disease. Those evacuating should wear their masks and maintain proper social distancing between themselves and those not in their family or traveling group.

One other twist on Laura's timing is that her scheduled arrival time of 1 a.m. near the mouth of the Sabine River coincides with the highest tide of the month, which will increase an already major storm surge up the rivers emptying into the Gulf.

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