Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declares state of disaster in 23 counties ahead of Hurricane Marco, Tropical Storm Laura

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HOUSTON — With two storms gaining strength in the Gulf of Mexico, Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday declared a state of disaster for 23 counties and requested assistance from the federal government.

Hurricane Marco is expected to make landfall in Louisiana on Monday before moving into East Texas, with forecasters expecting sustained winds of 75 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Laura is expected to advance into the central Gulf Coast late Tuesday, when the storm could strengthen into a hurricane, the National Weather Service said.

“As Hurricane Marco and Tropical Storm Laura approach Texas, the state is taking necessary precautions to protect our communities and keep Texans safe,” Abbott said in a statement.

While storm models have a “high degree of uncertainty,” according to Nim Kidd, Chief of the Texas Department of Emergency Management, Abbott, speaking alongside Kidd at a Sunday news conference, said Texas is “fully prepared” for both storms.

If the storms land as expected, they could mark the second significant disaster during the 2020 hurricane season in Texas, following Hurricane Hanna dumping more than 15 inches of rain on South Texas in late July as the region was a deadly coronavirus hotspot.

Still, the coronavirus pandemic is pervasive in Texas, killing at least 200 people every day for the last three weeks, and Abbott reminded the public on Sunday to adhere to mask-wearing, social distancing and other health guidelines.

“We cannot allow the oncoming hurricanes to set us back in the advancements that we’ve made in combating COVID-19,” Abbott said.

South Texas cities were the first to find out how to deal with a hurricane during the coronavirus pandemic, tweaking shelter practices to have adequate distancing between evacuees and outfitting first responders with protective equipment in order to follow safe coronavirus health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This week also marks three years since Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas and dumped more than 50 inches of rain on Houston, flooding thousands of homes and killing more than 80 people.

Additional reporting by Patrick Svitek.