HOUSTON • Hurricane Marco and Tropical Storm Laura tore through the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, forcing thousands of coastal residents in Louisiana and Cuba to flee, and flooding roads in Haiti’s capital, with damage across the region expected to worsen this week.
Marco, which later weakened to a tropical storm packing maximum sustained winds of 110kmh, was forecast to make landfall along the Louisiana coast yesterday afternoon.
Laura, which hit the Dominican Republic and Haiti earlier on Sunday, killing at least 10 people before striking Cuba on Sunday evening, is forecast to strengthen into a hurricane before making landfall in Texas or Louisiana on Thursday.
United States President Donald Trump issued a disaster declaration on Sunday for Louisiana. He had previously issued a similar declaration for Puerto Rico.
In New Orleans, Mr Billy Wright spent his Sunday buying bottled water, non-perishable food and an attic axe, which can be used to chop through a roof if flood waters block doors and windows. The 33-year-old attorney lives with his fiancee in a one-storey house just blocks from a canal that failed during 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
“You’d rather have it and not need it than be stuck in your attic with rising flood waters,” he said. “Getting two storms back to back is a big concern.”
Laura could strengthen into a Category 2 or 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale for measuring hurricane intensity and move west, closer to Houston, said Mr Chris Kerr, a meteorologist at DTN, an energy, agriculture and weather data provider.
Category 2 storms have sustained winds of at least 155kmh. The threshold for Category 3 storms is 178kmh.
In the Dominican Republic, at least three people died, including a mother and her seven-year-old son, due to collapsing walls. Laura knocked out power to more than a million people in that country and forced more than a thousand others to evacuate, the authorities said.
In Port-au-Prince, people waded waist-deep in muddy waters in some of the worst flooding the Haitian capital has seen in years.
The Haitian authorities reported seven deaths, including at least two people swept away in flooding and a 10-year-old girl crushed when a tree fell on her home.
Laura hit eastern Cuba on Sunday evening with sustained winds of 95kmh downing trees and ripping flimsy roofing from buildings.
Crude oil prices rose yesterday as the approaching storms shut more than half of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico. Energy firms shut more than one million barrels a day of offshore crude oil production and workers were evacuated from over 100 production platforms.