Hurricane Laura is moving toward the US Gulf Coast as Marco weakened to a tropical depression once it made landfall, in this satellite image seen on August 25, 2020.
Tropical Storm Marco made landfall in Louisiana on Monday evening.
Hurricane Laura has strengthened and is expected to hit the Louisiana-Texas border by Thursday. The storm killed 13 people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has produced a record-breaking 13 named storms in three months.
Warming atmosphere and oceans are making hurricanes stronger, slower, and wetter.
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The US Gulf Coast is bracing for an unprecedented twin cyclone strike that now includes a hurricane.
Tropical Storm Marco made landfall in southeastern Louisiana around 6 p.m. local time on Monday. Tropical Storm Laura, meanwhile, became a hurricane around 7 a.m. local time on Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center announced on Twitter.
It is moving towards Louisiana and Texas this week and has killed at least nine people in Haiti and four in the Dominican Republic, the Associated Press reported.
Marco weakened before it made landfall, and the NHC has discontinued all warnings and watches related to the storm.
Laura, meanwhile, “poses a potentially catastrophic threat to the Texas and Louisiana coast,” meteorologist Eric Holthaus tweeted on Sunday.
Hurricane scientist Eric Blake seconded the warning on Tuesday, saying Laura is giving him the “tingles,” but “not in a good way.”
The governors of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida have all declared states of emergency ahead of Laura’s approach.
The Gulf of Mexico has hosted simultaneous cyclones twice before — in 1933 and 1959 — but two named storms hitting the same spot within days would be unprecedented.
Laura could become a major hurricane before it hits the US Gulf CoastTropical Storms Marco (top) and Laura churn in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean as night falls, August 24, 2020.
Hurricane Laura is northwest of Cuba, heading west-northwest at 17 mph, the NHC said Tuesday morning.
Maximum wind speeds are at 70 mph, but they’re expected to pick up as the storm crosses the warm waters of the Gulf. That could turn Laura into a major hurricane by Wednesday as it approaches the border of Texas and Louisiana.
On Tuesday morning, the NHC issued a hurricane watch from San Luis Pass, Texas, to Morgan City, Louisiana. A tropical storm watch extends from Port Bolivar to San Luis Pass, Texas, and from Morgan City to the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Additionally, a storm surge watch — indicating risk of life-threatening flooding due to rising waters — affects the area from San Luis Pass, Texas, to Ocean Springs, Mississippi. That includes Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and Lake Borgne.
Over the weekend, Laura battered Puerto Rico, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.
In the Dominican Republic, more than 1 million people lost power, according to The Weather Channel. In Puerto Rico, meanwhile, the storm left 200,000 people without power and more than 10,000 without water, the AP reported.
Neighbors help Lafaille Katia (left) pick up a mattress at her flooded house the day after the passing of Tropical Storm Laura in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, August 24, 2020.
Dieu Nalio Chery/AP Photo
Laura is generating surf swells in parts of Cuba, the central Bahamas, and the Florida Keys. The NHC expects these swells to spread north into parts of Florida’s west coast and panhandle on Tuesday, causing “life-threatening” surf and rip currents.
Then from Wednesday afternoon to Friday, the storm is expected to bring 4 to 8 inches of rainfall to coastal areas surrounding the Texas-Louisiana border, and into parts of the lower Mississippi valley. Up to 12 inches could fall in some areas, with possible flash flooding.
This Atlantic hurricane season has produced storms faster than ever
So far this year, the Atlantic Ocean has produced a record 13 named storms in just three months. The 11th named storm doesn’t normally form until November 23, but this year Tropical Storm Kyle appeared on August 14. The NHC doesn’t even offer an average date for the 12th or 13th named storms (that’s Laura and Marco this year), since there are rarely that many in one season.
Over the weekend, some meteorologists wondered whether Marco and Laura would interact in an event called the Fujiwhara Effect, in which two cyclones spinning in the same direction pass close enough to dance around their common center. This interaction usually disrupts the circulation of both storms and weakens them. In rare cases, the cyclones can merge into one larger storm.
However, Marco and Laura did not wind up meeting.
Overall for 2020, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted an “extremely active” hurricane season, with 19 to 25 named storms — the first time in NOAA’s history the number is that high. The forecast includes seven to 11 hurricanes, with three to six of them reaching Category 3 or higher (that’s considered a “major hurricane”).
Astronaut Nick Hague, aboard the International Space Station, posted this photograph of Hurricane Dorian to Twitter on September 2, 2019.
“This is one of the most active seasonal forecasts that NOAA has produced in its 22-year history of hurricane outlooks,” US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a press release. “We encourage all Americans to do their part by getting prepared, remaining vigilant, and being ready to take action when necessary.”
An average season sees roughly six hurricanes, with three becoming major. But the Atlantic Ocean has been producing highly active hurricane seasons since 1995, according to NOAA.
In 2019 — when Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas in one of the most powerful Atlantic landfalls on record — the Atlantic produced 18 named storms. But Dorian was only that year’s fourth named storm when it formed on August 24.
Climate change is making hurricanes stronger, slower, and wetterAliana Alexis of Haiti stands on the concrete slab of what was left of her home after Hurricane Dorian, at Marsh Harbour in Great Abaco Island, Bahamas, September 5, 2019.
Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
Storms are getting stronger on average because climate change is causing ocean and air temperatures to climb — 2019 was the second-hottest year on record, and it closed the hottest decade ever recorded.
Hurricanes feed on warm water, and higher water temperatures also lead to sea-level rise, which increases the risk of flooding. Warmer air, meanwhile, holds more atmospheric water vapor, which helps tropical storms strengthen and unleash more precipitation.
Overall, the odds of any tropical cyclone becoming a major hurricane are increasing, according to a recent study based on satellite data. The findings showed that each new decade over the last 40 years has brought an 8% increase in the chance that a storm turns into a major hurricane.
“We have a significantly building body of evidence that these storms have already changed in very substantial ways, and all of them are dangerous,” James Kossin, an atmospheric scientist at NOAA and the study’s lead author, told the Washington Post.
Houses sit in floodwater from Hurricane Florence in Lumberton, North Carolina, September 17, 2018.
A 2013 study also showed that for each degree the planet warmed over the previous 40 years, the proportion of category 4 and 5 storms — the strongest hurricanes — increased by 25% to 30%.
“Almost all of the damage and mortality caused by hurricanes is done by major hurricanes,” Kossin told CNN. “Increasing the likelihood of having a major hurricane will certainly increase this risk.”
Storms are also getting more sluggish as the planet warms: Over the past 70 years or so, hurricanes and tropical storms have slowed about 10% on average, a 2018 study found.
That gives a hurricane more time to do damage in a given area, as Hurricane Dorian did last year after it stalled over the Bahamas, pummeling the islands with 185-mph winds and up to 30 inches of rain. Although the country’s official death toll was 74, Dr. Duane Sands, who served as the Minister of Health at the time, has said the true death toll “remains unknown,” according to the Miami Herald.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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