What you need to know:
- Hurricane Laura is expected to make landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border as a Category 4 hurricane Thursday morning.
- Due to the coronavirus, state officials are looking to house evacuees in hotels rather than crowded shelters.
- Citing the hurricane, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick canceled his trip to watch President Donald Trump's speech at the Republican National Convention
Landfall expected Thursday morning near Texas-Louisiana border
[2:15 p.m.] Hurricane Laura has reached Category 4 status with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph, according to the National Weather Service. It's the first major hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico since Hurricane Harvey brought widespread damage to Houston and other areas along the coast in 2017.
The NWS expects the storm to make landfall Thursday morning just east of the Texas-Louisiana border. According to an advisory, tropical storm force winds are expected to reach the coast of Southeast Texas on Wednesday evening. A hurricane warning is in effect from San Luis Pass to beyond the Louisiana border.
"The strongest winds and heaviest rains should occur overnight tonight into Thursday morning," the NWS advisory said.
Multiple cities and counties across the Gulf Coast have ordered evacuations.
"Laura is a very dangerous storm for extreme southeastern Texas and southwest Louisiana," the advisory said. "It will bring life-threatening storm surge from San Luis Pass, Texas to the Mouth of the Mississippi, widespread damaging winds to the Texas/Louisiana border area, and heavy rainfall around and east of the storm's center. Actions to protect life and property should be rushed to completion [Wednesday] morning as conditions will rapidly deteriorate later today." — Matthew Watkins
Texas using hotels to house evacuees
[1:30 p.m.] With Hurricane Laura approaching the Southeast Texas coast during a pandemic, local and state officials are looking to house evacuees in government-paid hotel rooms instead of large, often clustered emergency shelters.
One of the state’s few shelters announced for evacuees in Austin filled up Wednesday morning and ran out of hotel vouchers for Galveston evacuees, according to city officials. State emergency officials said they are working to ensure there is access to additional hotel rooms after the shelter at the city’s Circuit of the Americas racetrack filled up.
Early this morning, KVUE reported that evacuees were turned away from the shelter, which had the capacity for about 3,000 evacuees. At 10 a.m., the city said the racetrack was opened back up as a rest area and waiting location while officials scrambled to find more housing options.
At a noon press conference with the governor Wednesday, the chief of the Texas Department of Emergency Management said that the problem arose because the city believed it had rooms reserved, but they were taken by evacuees who went directly to hotels instead of first checking in with government officials at the racetrack. Officials are now juggling between those who come to the city for vouchers and those who check in to hotels on their own.
"There are still plenty of hotel rooms available, it's just trying to balance the load right now," Nim Kidd said.
Gov. Greg Abbott still urged people who can safely evacuate to do so. He said more than 5,000 evacuees have already been sheltered throughout the state. Read the full story here. — Jolie McCullough
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will not attend Trump's RNC speech
[1:50 p.m.] With Hurricane Laura heading for the Louisiana and Texas coasts, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced Wednesday that he will not be attending the Republican National Convention as planned.
"While I was deeply honored by the White House invitation to President Donald J. Trump's acceptance speech tomorrow night, the safety of the people of Texas is always my first priority," Patrick said.
Patrick encouraged Texans in the path of the storm to monitor it closely and follow evacuation orders as it is not a storm to "try to ride out." — Kelsey Carolan