Thursday's biggest developments:
- Hurricane Laura downgraded to Category 2
Hurricane Laura downgraded to Category 2
[7:12 a.m.] After battering the Gulf Coast shortly after midnight Thursday, Hurricane Laura has been downgraded to a Category 2 storm as it moves northeast through the Texas-Louisiana border.
About 70,000 Texans are out of power in the East Texas counties of Jefferson, Orange and Hardin counties, local media reported.
Despite the downgrade officials are expecting a storm surge to possibly reach more than 30 miles inland to I-10 between Beaumont and Lake Charles, according to CNN. The storm is expected to remain a hurricane as it moves through Louisiana. — Julián Aguilar
Texas avoids direct hit, but scope of damage remains to be seen
[1:31 a.m.] Hurricane Laura made landfall just east of the Texas-Louisiana border around midnight Thursday, but still posed a threat to Southeast Texas. The full scope of damage likely won't be known until later Thursday because the storm is expected to continue moving inland.
"We don't know exactly how it is going to affect us. We are watching it, letting it pass and as soon as it goes out we are going to see what we can do," Beaumont Mayor Becky Ames told KFDM as the hurricane was making landfall in Cameron Parish, Louisiana.
That parish is on the other side of the Texas-Louisiana border from Jefferson County, which is home to Beaumont and Port Arthur. Tens of thousands of homes in the area were without power by 1 a.m. Thursday, according to Entergy Texas, Inc. Hurricane Laura could mark the latest in a string of devastations for Texans in that region, where some are still recovering from damage caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
Storms of Laura’s strength can severely damage buildings and homes, down power lines, and snap or uproot most trees, according to the National Hurricane Center. On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott warned Texans in the area about the storm’s dangerous winds. And on Wednesday, he told Texans that the state would not be able to rescue people caught in the hurricane’s path from Wednesday evening until 9 a.m. Thursday. — Cassi Pollock, Matthew Watkins and Brandon Formby
Hurricane Laura intensifies and is close to becoming Category 5 hurricane
[8:27 p.m., Wednesday] As Hurricane Laura barreled toward the Gulf Coast on Wednesday night, the National Hurricane Center reported that the storm’s maximum sustained winds had reached 150 mph — just 7 mph short of becoming a Category 5 hurricane. The storm is expected to bring "catastrophic" storm surge, winds and flash flooding.
"All preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion in the next few hours," a 7 p.m. advisory from the center read.
The storm, currently a Category 4 hurricane, is expected to hit land just east of the Texas-Louisiana border by Thursday morning, according to the National Weather Service. Strong winds associated with the hurricane, though, are expected to make landfall Wednesday night. Storms classified as Category 5 have sustained winds that are 157 mph or higher.
While both Category 4 and 5 hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to trees, houses and power lines, the stronger storms, according to the center, can destroy “a high percentage of framed homes … with total roof failure and wall collapse.”
Later Wednesday, the center said possible tornadoes could occur on the outer bands of the hurricane in parts of Southeastern Louisiana and Southwestern Mississippi. — Cassi Pollock