UPDATE at 1 p.m.: Hurricane Laura is now an 'extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane' with maximum winds of 140 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said on Wednesday afternoon.
Governor Greg Abbott provided an update Wednesday afternoon on the state's emergency efforts as Hurricane Laura churned in the Gulf of Mexico, aiming for the coast near the Texas-Louisiana border.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has issued a State Disaster Declaration for 23 Texas counties on Sunday. He said he has added three more counties (Camp, Ellis and Tarrant) to that disaster declaration.
Gov. Abbott immediately urged anyone who is the path of Hurricane Laura to evacuate now.
"From 7 p.m. tonight until around 9 a.m. Thursday, you're going to see a lock down time for rescues. If you've got the ability to get our of harms way, please do so," said Gov. Abbott. "For those people in Southeast Texas, you've only got about five hours to evacuate. Get out of harms way."
Chief Nim Kidd, the Vice Chancellor for Disaster and Emergency Services for Texas, tried to emphasize the impact that Hurricane Laura will have on a lot of communities.
"It's been a while since we've seen Cat 3 or Cat 4 winds in Texas, but we know the damage that it does," he said. "Power restoration will be longer that we'd normally expect because of the high winds."
Hurricane warnings remained in place for much of the Southeast Texas Gulf Coast, stretching into Louisiana.
The Governor said the Texas Division of Emergency Management Recovery personnel, damage assessment platforms, and volunteer organizations are already in place for deployment post-landfall.
He also said that the following equipment has already been deployed in preparation of Hurricane Laura's landfall:
- 400 buses
- 38 aircraft
- 82 boats
- 202 high-profile vehicles
- 60 ambulances
- 75 para-transit vehicles that are ready to help move people
He said that there are more than 5,000 people sheltered throughout the state, and the state is prepared to take in many more as he continues to urge people to evacuate from regions that could have the largest impact from this massive storm.
The power of Hurricane Laura is unprecedented, and Texans must take action now to get out of harm's way and protect themselves," said Governor Abbott. "The conditions of this storm are unsurvivable, and I urge Southeast Texans to take advantage of these final few hours to evacuate, secure their property, and take all precautions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. The State of Texas is prepared to respond to the storm, and we are working alongside federal and local officials to keep Texans safe."
Unsurvivable storm surge is projected to cause catastrophic damage from Sea Rim State Park in Texas into Louisiana. Tropical storm force winds will move into Jefferson and Orange counties around 7:00 PM this evening, and hurricane force winds will be possible just after midnight. Rain bands will begin moving towards the Texas coast this afternoon and will move through East Texas after midnight into Thursday. East Texas is also projected to experience hurricane force winds as the storm travels north.
Governor Abbott stressed that power outages are likely, and urged Texans to avoid bringing generators into their homes due to the high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Hundreds of thousands of residents have been urged to evacuate 'immediately.' In Port Arthur, police said the last bus for evacuees would leave the area at noon on Wednesday.