Berlin (dpa) – Hurricane Laura, which made landfall in the US state of Louisiana early on Thursday, has been downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane with potential for “catastrophic damage,” according to the latest public advisory from the National Hurricane Centre (NHC).
“Rapid weakening is forecast, and Laura is expected to become a tropical storm later today,” according to the NHC, which had previously classified Laura as an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 hurricane.
The storm made landfall just after 1am (0600 GMT) in Cameron, Louisiana – about 220 kilometres east of Houston, Texas – according to the NHC.
Winds attained a maximum sustained speed of 195 kilometres per hour, with higher gusts.
More than 500,000 people were put under evacuation orders in parts of Texas and Louisiana as Laura headed towards the United States Gulf Coast.
The NHC forecast the hurricane would cause an “unsurvivable storm surge and destructive waves” bringing “catastrophic damage” to more than 200 kilometres of coast from eastern Texas to central Louisiana.
The surge of water, with some waves reaching more than 4 metres of height, has the potential to penetrate more than 60 kilometres into the coastal flatlands, likely leaving some urban areas uninhabitable for weeks.
Laura is moving northwards at about 24 kilometres per hour, and is expected to pass through the state of Louisiana through the afternoon, hitting Arkansas later on Thursday and the mid-Mississippi Valley on Friday.