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(KARK/NEXSTAR) – Tropical Storm Laura strengthened into a hurricane Tuesday morning as it moved past Cuba and toward Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico.
The storm pounded Haiti, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic with heavy rain over the past few days, killing at least 13 people, according to reports.
Mandatory evacuations are underway in parts of Louisana and Texas, where the storm is expected to make landfall. Hundreds of thousands of residents, particularly those living in low-lying areas, are said to be affected.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbot ordered more than 70 members of the Texas National Guard to help with the state’s storm response.
At 7:15 a.m. Tuesday, Laura had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph. It was about 625 miles southeast of Lake Charles, Louisiana, moving west-northwest at 17 mph.
The hurricane is expected to move across the Gulf on Tuesday and Wednesday and reach the Upper Texas and Southwest Louisiana coasts on Wednesday night. Forecasters said it could become a major Category 3 hurricane late Wednesday or early Thursday.
A storm surge watch is in effect for:
- San Luis Pass Texas to Ocean Springs Mississippi
- Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and Lake Borgne
A hurricane watch is in effect for:
- San Luis Pass Texas to west of Morgan City Louisiana
A tropical storm warning is in effect for:
- Cuban provinces of Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, Matanzas, Mayabeque,
La Habana, Artemisa, Pinar del Rio, and the Isle of Youth
- Dry Tortugas
A tropical storm watch is in effect for:
- San Luis Pass to Freeport Texas
- Morgan City Louisiana to the Mouth of the Mississippi River
Post-Tropical Cyclone Marco
Marco was downgraded from a tropical storm to a depression on Monday night. It became a remnant low just south of Louisiana hours later.
The system is expected to dissipate early Wednesday morning as it moves westward off the Louisiana coast.
At 5 a.m. Monday, Marco had maximum sustained winds of 30 mph and was about 60 miles south of Morgan City, Louisiana. It was moving west at 10 mph.
There are no coastal watches or warnings in effect.