Storms Projected to Hit Gulf Coast in ‘One-Two Punch’

Two major storms are on track to hit the U.S. Gulf Coast this week, bringing potentially dangerous flooding and surges to Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

Source: WSJ | Published on August 24, 2020

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast that Tropical Storm Marco—currently in the Gulf of Mexico and downgraded from a hurricane Sunday night—will make landfall Monday in Louisiana.

Tropical Storm Laura already has hit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, leaving thousands without utilities. On Sunday, it brought heavy rainfall and flash flooding in the Dominican Republic and Haiti as it approached Cuba. Laura is expected to strengthen into a hurricane on Tuesday as it enters the Gulf of Mexico and to make landfall in Louisiana Thursday morning on the heels of Marco.

“It’s a one-two punch here with this,” said Joel Cline, tropical program coordinator with the NOAA’s National Weather Service. “You wouldn’t have any time for repairs.”

In a Sunday briefing, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said about 32,000 customers in Puerto Rico were without power, and 13,700 without water service. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, 4,763 customers were without power.

The governor of Puerto Rico requested an emergency declaration on Friday, which was granted by President Trump on Saturday. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issued a state of emergency on Saturday.

On Friday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards also declared a state of emergency for the state, which is threatened by both tropical storms. Gov. Edwards cautioned residents to continue following coronavirus safety protocols.

“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,” Mr. Edwards said.

Previous forecasts showed the possibility that both storms could strengthen into hurricanes while simultaneously in the Gulf of Mexico, which would be the first time in history that occurred. However, Mr. Cline said it now seems unlikely that Marco and Laura will be in the Gulf of Mexico at the same time or influence each other.

The NOAA warned of life-threatening floods along the Gulf Coast once Marco makes landfall, though the storm is expected to weaken once it moves inland.

Eric Berger, editor of the Space City Weather blog in Houston, said Laura looks to be a greater threat with stronger storm surge and winds, though its exact path is still unclear.

“At this point there are still so many questions,“ Mr. Berger said. “You’re asking for an area from south of Houston all the way along the Gulf Coast to New Orleans to prepare for a hurricane in the middle of a pandemic. It’s really uncertain, difficult times.”

So far this year there have been 13 named storms, a record, according to Philip Klotzbach, research scientist at Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science.