HOUSTON, Texas (Reuters) – Hurricane Laura made landfall early on Thursday in southwestern Louisiana as one of the most powerful storms to hit the state, shattering glass windows and tearing roofs off buildings in Lake Charles as it moved northward to drench the inland.
Residents of Lake Charles, Louisiana, heard Laura’s winds howling and the sound of breaking glass throughout the night as the storm passed through the city of 78,000 with winds of 85 miles per hour (137 km per hour) and gusts up to 128 mph (206 kph), in the hour after landfall.
The windows of the city’s 22-floor Capital One Tower were blown out, street signs were toppled and pieces of wooden fences and debris from collapsed buildings lay in the streets, video footage on Twitter and Snapchat showed.
Laura made landfall just before 1 a.m. as a Category 4 storm packing winds of 150 mph (240 kph) in the small town of Cameron, Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
It rapidly weakened to a Category 2 storm Thursday morning with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph (160 kph), and was forecast to become a tropical storm later in the day. However, the NHC warned that the threat of possibly deadly storm surge would continue along the Louisiana coast as Laura moved north and then northeast.
The area where Laura made landfall in Cameron Parish has a population of just under 7,000 and is home to a national wildlife refuge. The marshland there is particularly vulnerable to the storm surge of ocean water.