Hurricane Laura makes landfall in the US

By Meg Wagner, Judson Jones, Mike Hayes, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton and Amy Woodyatt, CNN

Updated 8:38 a.m. ET, August 27, 2020
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5:01 a.m. ET, August 27, 2020

Hurricane Laura has weakened to a Category 3 storm

Laura has weakened to a Category 3 hurricane, with winds now at 120 mph, according to the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center. 

The storm is expected to further weaken as it moves quickly inland over Louisiana, with hurricane force winds extending out 60 miles from the center.

The center, known as the eye of the hurricane, is currently 30 miles north of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and 50 miles northeast of Port Arthur, Texas.

Where it's heading next: The storm is expected to continue moving across southwestern Louisiana in the early hours of the morning, then continue northward across the state through Thursday afternoon. The storm's center is forecast to move over Arkansas later Thursday night, then reach the mid-Mississippi Valley on Friday and the mid-Atlantic states on Saturday.

4:57 a.m. ET, August 27, 2020

Hurricane Laura "is going to become the new benchmark," storm chaser predicts

Josh Morgerman, a hurricane chaser currently in Sulphur, Louisiana, told CNN that Hurricane Laura was going to "become the new benchmark storm for this region of the United States."

"The past biggies were Hurricane Audrey of 1957 which made landfall in almost the exact same place, killed hundreds of people in the town of Cameron," he said. Then in 2005, Hurricane Rita hit the same area and devastated the region again.

The region has learned how to better respond to earthquakes -- but "Hurricane Laura, because of its intensity, by far the strongest on record for this region, I think Laura's the new benchmark for this part of the United States," he said.

Sulphur lies just west of Lake Charles, where the eye of the hurricane is passing over.

"It's pitch black right now, there's no power or anything. All you hear is sounds, crashing and howling," said Morgerman. "I just can't imagine what this place is going to look like when the sun comes up."
4:49 a.m. ET, August 27, 2020

Storm surges are beginning to move into Hackberry, Louisiana

From CNN's Paul Murphy

Hurricane Laura's maximum sustained winds have died down slightly to 130 miles per hour -- but as the storm moves north from Cameron, Louisiana, where it made landfall, tidal surges are starting to push water levels up in those coastal communities.

The water levels in Hackberry, which lies next to Cameron, have already started spiking, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

And Austin Lewis, who's riding out the storm in his tugboat in Hackberry, says conditions are worsening; the wind had been relatively mild and the rain had stopped when he sat in the eye of the storm, but now choppy waters and roaring winds are approaching along with the eyewall.

The storm surges could reach 20 feet high, meteorologists have warned -- which could spell disaster for lower-lying coastal towns like Cameron and Holly Beach.

Take a look:

4:15 a.m. ET, August 27, 2020

Some buildings have been damaged in Lake Charles, but there's no flooding in downtown so far

From CNN's Joe Sutton

The city of Lake Charles has experienced some damage as the eyewall of Hurricane Laura passes over it, authorities told CNN.

“We have seen flying debris in the area,” Calcasieu Parish spokesman Tom Hoefer said. “We know there is some damage to buildings in the downtown area.”

However, the extent of the damage is not yet known. 

There is no flooding so far in the downtown area, Hoefer added.

CNN is tracking Hurricane Laura's path here:

3:56 a.m. ET, August 27, 2020

Nearly 285,000 customers are without power across Louisiana and Texas

From CNN’s Joe Sutton 

Power outages in Louisiana and Texas are climbing at a rapid pace this morning, after Hurricane Laura made landfall on the Gulf Coast.

There are now nearly 285,000 customers without power in both states, according to PowerOutage.US. 

Nearly 225,000 of those customers are in Louisiana, while more than 60,000 are in Texas.

3:29 a.m. ET, August 27, 2020

The storm's winds have dropped slightly, as it heads toward southwestern Louisiana

Hurricane Laura is now sitting over Lake Charles, Louisiana, and maximum sustained winds have fallen slightly to 140 mph.

It's still a Category 4 storm, though meteorologists had previously forecast that it would weaken rapidly after moving inland.

Where is it going next? Winds in the eye of the hurricane will decrease dramatically for an hour or more, before the southern eyewall moves over Lake Charles and brings gusts over 100 mph once again, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm continues to move north at about 15 mph, and the eyewall will head across southwestern Louisiana in the coming hours.

"It's hitting with such force, this could still be a Category 1 well up into the state of Arkansas. They could lose power in Little Rock as well," warned CNN meteorologist Tom Sater.

3:15 a.m. ET, August 27, 2020

Here's a view from the eye of the hurricane

Austin Lewis is riding out Hurricane Laura on his tugboat in Hackberry, Louisiana -- and he's now sitting in the eye of the hurricane.

Hackberry lies south of Lake Charles and north of Cameron, where the hurricane made landfall just over an hour ago.

"It's not so bad at the moment. We're in the eye now. Right before we got into the eye, it was -- the highest gauge we got here was 137 miles per hour," he told CNN. "We had a couple of buildings around us come loose. A couple of antennae and satellites off of some boats."

There's not much rain at the moment, he said. The wind is at a low roar outside his cabin, and measuring about 30 to 40 miles per hour on his boat's wind gauge.

He added that it was fairly common for people in the area to stay, since many of them have boats. "Everybody knew what they were getting into before they got here," he said.


3:26 a.m. ET, August 27, 2020

The eye of the hurricane is moving over Lake Charles

Hurricane Laura made landfall about an hour ago near Cameron, Louisiana.

The town is relatively low-lying, with only about 5 or 10 feet of elevation -- meaning "It's mostly completely underwater," said CNN meteorologist Tom Sater.

"There will not be a chance to get to that area until late in the morning," he added.

The eye of the storm is now moving over Lake Charles, lying further north. Already, the conditions have deteriorated severely; winds are howling, and storm chasers have reported glass being blown everywhere, and ears hurting from the low air pressure.

"Right now you can still hear the wind. It's screaming through the cracks and crevasses of the building," said CNN correspondent Martin Savidge from Lake Charles, where the CNN crew is taking refuge indoors.

"When you were outside, you literally felt the entire building as it was shuddering under the wind blow. So it's taking a beating. And this is one of the strongest buildings in the area., it's why we chose it."

"All you hear is the roaring sound of a jet engine, and literally a world that is coming apart outside your windows," he added.

The storm surge, heavy rainfall and powerful winds mean it'll be near impossible to assess the damage until the morning -- first responders won't be able to travel in those conditions, and drones or aircraft won't be able to get any aerial pictures. Roads will be submerged and power lines will have fallen, making transport or rescue efforts even harder.

Hear more:

2:32 a.m. ET, August 27, 2020

Here's what it looks like in Lake Charles, Louisiana right now

CNN Correspondent Martin Savidge is in Lake Charles, Louisiana, about 30 miles away from the eye of Hurricane Laura, which has made landfall near Cameron.

"You're really getting a sense of the volume of water and amount of wind blow that is blasting across the landscape here," Savidge said, as wind and rain gusts around him.

"We are in a sheltered area so we're not getting the full blast of the storm, but the eyewall is really close to us now. You can hear a lot of things banging out of the darkness, and we've had the power go off and on. This storm is clearly roaring, and you are reaching that critical moment here, for anybody who's hunkered inside their home."

Savidge added that the wind was so strong it was hard to stay standing -- but the area is facing the second, potentially worse threat of storm surge.

There is a "tremendous volume of rain that's now falling down," he said. "We have slight damage on the property here, but in the exposed areas, especially right down on the coast, they would be getting hammered by all of this."

Take a look: