Gulf Coast Endures Weakened Marco As All Eyes Turn To Tropical Storm Laura

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A fading Tropical Storm Marco continued its steady path along the Gulf Coast on Monday, and forecasters estimated further weakening would follow landfall in southeastern Louisiana on Monday. Once over land, Marco’s remnants would cross into East Texas Tuesday night and dissipate.

But as coastal communities absorbed Marco’s diminished force, many eyes looked farther south to the Caribbean, to a second and potentially more powerful danger: the already deadly Tropical Storm Laura, which has left a trail of death and destruction from the U.S. Virgin Islands to western Cuba.

Forecasters believed Laura would grow into a hurricane over the warm waters of the Gulf, and that it too would land in Louisana, but closer to Texas. Some models warned Laura would retain much of its strength for the rest of this week as it tore its way inland, through Arkansas, Tennessee and possibly as far as Virginia.

On Sunday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he had issued a state disaster declaration for 23 counties, including Bexar County, as part of the state’s response to both tropical threats. The declaration would aid staging and sheltering efforts. On Monday, President Donald Trump declared the designated counties federal emergency areas.

On Monday, in a follow up to Abbott’s declaration, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a statement warning “that state law prohibits price gouging during a declared disaster. … Texas law prohibits vendors from charging exorbitant prices for necessities such as drinking water, food, batteries, generators, towing, clothing, medical supplies, lodging, repair work and fuel during and after the crisis.”

Texans who believed they encountered price gouging could contact Paxton’s office online here.

On Monday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported Marco was about 40 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It was moving northwest at 6 mph. The Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft dispatched to evaluate the storm measured sustained winds of 40 mph.

Most communities between East Texas and southern Georgia continued to face threats of storm surge, dangerous surf, severe winds, heavy rain, the risk of flash flooding and even tornadoes. Most counties and their states affected by Marco issued states of emergency.

On Sunday, HPM spoke with Francisco Sanchez, emergency management coordinator for Harris County, who was worried about Marco indirectly saturating the East Texas region and then Laura’s rainfall making the crisis even worse. “We’re not concerned about the flooding from Marco,” he explained to HPM, “but if we then have a storm that comes in later this week and the grounds are already saturated, that could be problematic in terms of rain because it will have nowhere to go.”

On Monday, Tropical Storm Laura moved past Cuba. It was about 15 miles east-southeast of Cayo Largo, an island south of mainland Cuba. It moved west-northwest at 20 mph. The Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft sent to evaluate the storm measured sustained winds of 60 mph.

“Little change in strength is forecast today, but strengthening is expected when the storm moves over the Gulf of Mexico, and Laura is foreast to become a hurricane on Tuesday, with additional strengthening forecast on Wednesday,” forecasters explained.

If Laura’s sustained winds exceed 74 mph, it will be classified as a Category 1 hurricane.

Reuters reported on Sunday that Haiti and the Dominican Republic had seen at least 10 deaths and historic levels of flooding in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital city. More than a million Dominican people were without power. Residents in eastern Cuba fled their homes as Laura’s floodwaters rushed in.

The bizarre, dramatic possibility of two strong storms striking the same stretch of coastline sparked memes, black humor and wry comments about 2020 on social media throughout the weekend. Also, one historian noted the storms would strike less than a week before the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

NPR noted that the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has seen “named storms forming at a pace never seen before.” One weather expert estimated that 2020 has seen 30 named storm days by Aug. 22, a record exceeded only by the 1995, 2005 and 2008 storm seasons.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently warned that this year’s season could see twice the normal number of named storms.

The remaining names from 2020’s list of “Tropical Cyclone Names” are Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky, Wilfred. If that list is exhausted, the NHC explained, “additional storms will take names from the Greek alphabet.”

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