Residents in Louisiana and Texas are being told to prepare for what could be back-to-back tropical storm or hurricane landfalls this week.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Friday night, as the latest forecast cones for tropical storms Marco and Laura both had the state in their sights. Both storms could strengthen into hurricanes over the Gulf of Mexico.
“Louisiana is in a unique situation in that it is in the cone of two storms, which could impact different areas of the state in the coming days,” Edwards said in a statement. “It is too soon to know exactly where, when or how these dual storms will affect Louisiana, but now is the time for our people to prepare for these storms.”
Parts of Texas were also in both cones.
Houston officials were prepared to open the George R. Brown Convention Center as a shelter if necessary.
“There are modifications to our weather plans because of the (coronavirus) pandemic to ensure distancing,” the mayor’s office tweeted. “If needed, George R. Brown will be a shelter. We may encourage you to shelter in place or shelter with family.”
(MORE: Track Tropical Storms Marco and Laura)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott advised residents to “remain vigilant and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and others from heavy rainfall and potential flooding.”
The governor ordered high-water vehicles, boats, search and rescue teams and saw crews to prepare in case they are needed in any part of the state.
While the track and intensity of both storms remain uncertain, current predictions from the National Hurricane Center show Marco could make landfall sometime Tuesday along the coast of eastern Texas or western Louisiana. Laura could follow a similar path on Wednesday or Thursday.
Other parts of Louisiana, including New Orleans, could also be impacted by Laura.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell declared a state of emergency Friday. The city’s director of homeland security and emergency preparedness, Collin Arnold, said residents should have supplies on hand to shelter in place, nola.com reported.
That means having enough food, water and other supplies to last at least 72 hours, according to the state’s disaster preparedness website. Among the other items people are encouraged to have on hand in an emergency kit are flashlights, batteries and a first aid kit. Officials are also reminding residents to have coronavirus-related items ready to go, in case they need to leave their homes.
“It should not be lost on any Louisianan that in addition to twin tropical weather threats, we still have to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Edwards said in his statement. “It is critical that you include relevant supplies, including face masks and hand sanitizer, in your emergency kits. COVID-19 does not become less of a threat because of tropical weather.”
New Orleans Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Infrastructure Ramsey Green said during a press conference Friday afternoon that 98 of the city’s 99 pumps were operational, and the final one should be up and running by Sunday.
The city was also sending out vacuum trucks to clear catch basins.
(MORE: Two Hurricane or Tropical Storm U.S. Landfalls at Once Are Possible Next Week – How Unusual is That?)
The westward trend of Tropical Storm Laura’s forecast Friday into Saturday took Florida mostly out of the forecast path, although the Florida Keys could still be swiped. Officials in Monroe County, which encompasses the Keys, issued a mandatory evacuation of all live-aboard vessels, mobile homes, recreational vehicles, travel trailers and campers. All recreational vehicles must be removed by noon on Sunday.
Meanwhile, less than a month after Tropical Storm Isaias toppled trees, inundated streets and knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses, residents in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands braced for Laura, which will pass over the islands Saturday.
The head of Puerto Rico’s Bureau for Emergency Management and Disaster Administration said the agency is ready to respond to the storm that could bring gusty winds and 3 to 6 inches of rain.
Nino Correa, the interim commissioner of NMEAD, told El Vocero the agency was working with city mayors, and all coordinators had been activated.
“The most important thing is calm. We ask people to prepare, but to remain calm. It is the most we need,” Correa said.
Carlos Alvarado, chief of Technical Operations for Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority, told El Vocero the agency has materials on hand and private companies are standing by to help restore power after the storm passes.
“We have the personnel, the contingency plans. We are prepared to deal with the situation as it happens,” Alvarado said.
Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency Director Daryl Jaschen said evacuation shelters would not open for the storm.
The U.S. Coast Guard closed ports in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico at 8 a.m. Friday.
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