Last week’s projections that two tropical storms will wallop the Gulf Coast simultaneously will not pan out, as Tropical Storm Laura veered away from Florida and slowed down slightly. Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Marco has stayed the course, but lost strength as it barrels towards Louisiana and Texas, according to CNN.
On Sunday night, Marco was downgraded to a tropical storm and conditions in the Gulf of Mexico make it unlikely to regain strength. This is a welcome relief from the worrying predictions that first suggested the Gulf Coast, a region experiencing spikes in coronavirus cases and struggling to turn around testing in a timely manner, would have to prepare for two powerful hurricanes striking within hours of each other.
Instead, it looks like Marco will run along the coastline as it fizzles out, dropping rain later today and tomorrow, according to CNN. And yet, right behind Marco, Laura is gaining strength in the Caribbean and may become a category 2 storm when it makes landfall on Wednesday or Thursday.
Even though Marco is expected to lose strength, meteorologists are still unsure of how Laura will behave and are urging residents to prepare for the worst.
“You need to be prepared to ride out the storms, you and your family, wherever you are at dark tonight,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said during a news briefing on Sunday, as The New York Times reported warnings that residents may need shelter in place for as long as 72 hours. He added that Laura could delay both search and rescue teams and power companies from addressing power outages.
The impending storms forced Louisiana to shut down its state-run coronavirus testing centers for Monday and Tuesday, while New Orleans will shutter its city-run testing sites today, according to The Washington Post. That could mean trouble if people start to become complacent about their vigilance or if they start to congregate in order to find shelter from the storm.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster to enlist the National Guard to run sanitation teams and mobile testing units, which can help ensure that people test negative and are safe to relocate. Abbot also said that it is possible to convert two facilities treating COVID-19 patients in Houston and San Antonio into emergency medical shelters, according to The Washington Post.
In Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner said residents should include coronavirus testing as part of their hurricane preparation. He said in a press conference that it would be selfish of residents not to get tested for the virus before going to shelter with others. That sort of complacency could lead to a resurgence of the virus, said Turner, as The Washington Post reported.
“Hurricanes are unpredictable, no matter how much science we have,” said Richard Zuschlag, the chief executive of Acadian Ambulance based in Lafayette, LA, which is in the paths of both storms, as The New York Times reported.
Meteorologists said that while Marco could cause storm surges of up to six feet along the Mississippi River, Laura might drive them up to 10 feet. The storms will hit as a one-two punch and are expected to inundate the southern parts of Louisiana with five to 10 inches of rain, according to The New York Times.
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