NEW ORLEANS (CN) — All tropical storm warnings and watches for the Louisiana coast were dropped Monday afternoon as Tropical Storm Marco continued to weaken, while Tropical Storm Laura gained intensity as its path shifted west toward Texas.
The two storms have been called a once-in-a-life time weather event because of the close proximity of their tracks at the same time.
Laura is forecast to make landfall late Wednesday or Thursday as a Category 2 hurricane near the Louisiana-Texas border. It is expected to strengthen as it speeds along the southern coast of Cuba and into the Gulf of Mexico Monday afternoon. In its latest forecast, the National Hurricane Center extended Laura’s cone – a projection of its likely track – from Texas’ Galveston Bay in the west to Lafayette, Louisiana, in the east.
Marco, meanwhile, is expected to be downgraded to a tropical depression Monday evening. Although it could still bring heavy rain to parts of Louisiana, wind shear that is the result of the storm becoming disorganized has kept it from strengthening, according to a Monday afternoon update from the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service.
As of 1 p.m., Marco had winds of 40 mph. Tropical force winds are those between 39 to 73 mph. Marco is forecast to reach the Louisiana coast Monday afternoon, and then is projected to become a tropical depression by Monday evening before heading west slowly along the Louisiana coast through Tuesday night.
At least nine people had died by Monday morning after Laura drenched Haiti with floodwaters. Among the dead was Jessica Jeanniton, a pediatrician whose Toyota Rav4 appeared to have gotten stuck in mud as she and her 10-month-old son attempted to escape flooding. Jeanniton’s body was found Sunday but the baby is still missing, according to an Associated Press report.
Another four people died from the storm in neighboring Dominican Republic. A tree fell onto a house, killing 7-year-old Darwin Frias and his mother, Clarissa, 44, among others.
In a country with 11 million citizens, more than 1 million Dominicans were without power Monday as Laura passed and large parts of the Dominican Republic were without water, according to the AP.
In New Orleans on Sunday evening, some businesses were laying sandbags to block openings in doors and windows to prevent flooding, but hurricane preparations were not widespread despite weekend forecasts that both storms would make landfall in southeast Louisiana. Since those forecasts, Laura has charted further west toward the Texas border.
Many businesses in the French Quarter and throughout New Orleans are still boarded up to prevent looting ever since they were forced to shutter earlier this year due to Covid-19.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards on Friday sought an emergency declaration to speed up relief efforts in anticipation of the storms. His request was granted by the federal government early Saturday.
“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,” Edwards said in a statement.
The governor urged residents to prepare to shelter in place and cautioned that because the storms are back to back, relief from power outages as well as emergency response may take longer than usual.
Over the weekend, grocery stores filled up as shoppers waited in long lines to get in.
At the Whole Foods on South Broad Street in New Orleans, Blake Hudson wheeled a cart with enough containers to hold 40 gallons of filtered water toward a line that wrapped around the building.
“We’re going to ride it out at home,” Hudson said of the twin storms. “We’ll ride this one out at home.”
Hudson said he had evacuated for Hurricane Katrina, the tragic storm that made landfall 15 years ago this week and resulted in massive flooding that was responsible for at least 1,833 deaths.