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Two hurricanes are expected to hit the Gulf Coast at almost the same time this week, a very unusual and life-threatening event.
Tropical storm Marco strengthened to hurricane status on Sunday as it marches towards the Gulf Coast. As of 8 p.m. EDT Sunday, it was about 180 miles south-southeast of the Mississippi River with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, traveling north-northwest at 13 mph.
Meanwhile, tropical storm Laura is expected to reach hurricane status before it reaches Louisiana on Wednesday. On Sunday night, it was located over Cuba after surging over the Dominican Republic and Haiti, killing at least seven people. According to the National Hurricane Center, it traveled west-northwest at 21 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph.
Marco is expected to landfall in Louisiana on Monday, affecting parts of Mississippi and Alabama with storm surge, heavy rainfall, and strong winds. By Tuesday, Marco is expected to hook westward, weakening to a tropical depression status as it reaches Texas. Laura was forecasted to sweep over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico late Monday into Tuesday and strengthen as it traverses the Gulf.
According to Joel Cline, a tropical program coordinator for the National Weather Service, this event is “pretty unusual” and that the last time two hurricanes hit simultaneously was in 1933. The last time a hurricane and tropical storm were both in the Gulf of Mexico was in 1959.
Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana requested a federal emergency declaration on Saturday from the White House, with a warning that Marco and Laura are expected to affect the state in a quick sequence early next week. It was one day after the governor declared a state of emergency in the country.
So far, 14 parishes have issued emergency declarations, and more are anticipated over the next days. Mr. Edwards advised Louisiana residents to include face masks and hand sanitizers in their emergency kits as “COVID-19 does not become less of a threat because of tropical weather”.
Because of the COVID-19 threat, the state plans to only activate large shelters with congregate settings as a last resort. Instead, he is working with the federal government to make use of hotels and motels if massive evacuations become necessary.
On Sunday, Louisiana State University announced the cancelation of all classes and activities, including COVID-19 testing centers.
According to the National Weather Service, this year’s hurricane season is expected to be one of the most current records. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this month updated its forecast, estimating that there will have been up to 25 named storms by November 30. Seven to 11 of named storms could become hurricanes with winds above 74 mph.
This season has already named 13 storms, with Laura breaking the record of the earliest L-named storm in the Atlantic Basin, previously held by Luis on August 29, 1995. Even with the forecast of 25 tropical storms, meteorologists still do not expect a season as active as in 2005 with 28 named storms.