People that live anywhere along the Gulf Coast of the United States are gearing up for a major strike from a major hurricane late Wednesday night into early Thursday morning. Hurricane Laura, now a category one with 80 mph winds, is forecast to strengthen into a category three major hurricane with at least 111 mph winds or greater by the time it makes landfall. The current forecast track has it coming ashore in extreme eastern Texas around Port Arthur. Take a look at the current location of Laura on the image below...literally in the middle of the Gulf.
More than 300 oil rig platforms have already been shutdown, and mandatory evacuations are underway. More than 750,000 people are on the move away from the coast to higher ground. This type of hurricane has the potential to cause devastating effects with life-threatening flash flooding, storm surge, six to ten inches of rain, and hours of damaging winds in excess of 100 mph. Of course, that doesn't include the risk of tornadoes spawned as these tropical systems come ashore.
With water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico in the mid/upper 80s, that will fuel rapid intensification of this system before making landfall. Below is the official track from the National Hurricane Center. We should note the "H" on the map means hurricane, "M" means major hurricane (category 3 or higher), "S" means tropical storm, and "D" is tropical depression as it weakens inland.
Rainfall totals from this system will be on the order of about six to ten inches in a wide area from eastern Texas through southern Louisiana. We also expect heavy, flooding rains to carry well inland with this system before getting picked up in the prevailing westerlies and carried into the Ohio Valley. See image below.
At this point, it's unlikely this remnant moisture directly affects us here in West Michigan. Most, perhaps all of it, will track across Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio. Storm surge also tends to be another deadly and destructive factor of hurricanes. The stronger the hurricane, the bigger the push of ocean water (or storm surge) onto the shore itself. It's possible this surge can be as high as 9 to 13 feet in some areas and penetrate more than 25 miles inland. The highest surge along with battering, erosional waves with be just to the immediate right of the actual eye or center of circulation. That said, breached levees remain a huge concern in these areas. See image below of storm surge inundation map.
Make sure to stay up on later forecasts as the track and intensity of this system can change. Here's a link to the National Hurricane Center. Get our complete West Michigan forecast at www.fox17online.com/weather.