Tropical Storm Laura could become a major Category 3 hurricane just before hitting the U.S. Gulf Coast later this week.
The National Hurricane Center updated its forecast early Tuesday morning, issuing a hurricane watch from San Luis Pass, Texas, to just west of Morgan City, Louisiana, a stretch of approximately 320 miles. This is where the worst damage could occur.
Tuesday morning Laura was centered just west of western Cuba, heading into the Gulf of Mexico. Very warm sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and very little wind shear will allow Laura to gain a lot of strength over the next couple of days.
The potential Category 3 winds will forcefully push water onshore. This storm surge, combined with excessive rainfall, will lead to widespread flooding.
Wave heights of 6 to 10 feet are possible, with rainfall totals of 8 to 12 inches Wednesday afternoon to Saturday.
With Laura closing in, the U.S. Coast Guard has temporarily closed ports in Louisiana, including the Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA), the Port of South Louisiana and the Port of Baton Rouge.
The ports are under condition Zulu. This means no vessels may enter or move within these ports without permission of the captain of the port (COTP), and all ship-to-shore operations must cease until further notice.
Besides disruption to containerized cargo, Laura will also interrupt offshore oil operations. Crews will likely have to evacuate rigs soon.
Even though Laura is only 36 to 48 hours from landfall, changes in the forecast track and intensity are possible. While these changes can be subtle, they can make a big difference in which areas bear the brunt of the storm. Look for more updates on the FreightWaves website and social media accounts.