NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Tropical Storm Marco began falling apart Monday, easing one threat to the Gulf Coast but setting the stage for the arrival of Laura as a potentially supercharged Category 3 hurricane with winds topping 110 miles per hour.
The two-storm combination could bring a history-making onslaught of wind and coastal flooding from Texas to Alabama, forecasters said.
Still a tropical storm for now, Laura churned just south of Cuba after killing at least 11 people in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, where it knocked out power and caused flooding in the two nations that share the island of Hispaniola.
The deaths reportedly included a 10-year-old girl whose home was hit by a tree and a mother and young son who were crushed by a collapsing wall.
Laura was not expected to weaken over land before moving into warm, deep Gulf waters that forecasters said could bring rapid intensification.
“We’re only going to dodge the bullet so many times. And the current forecast for Laura has it focused intently on Louisiana,” Governor John Bel Edwards told a news briefing.
Shrimp trawlers and fishing boats were tied up in a Louisiana harbor ahead of the storms. Red flags warned swimmers away from the pounding surf.
Both in-person classes and virtual school sessions required because of the coronavirus pandemic were cancelled in some districts.
As Marco continued to collapse Monday, the National Hurricane Center cancelled all tropical storm watches and warnings. Marco’s winds died down to 40 miles per hour as it sloshed 40 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.
By midday Monday, an airplane monitoring the system could only find a small area of wind strong enough to keep Marco a tropical storm, and those winds were not near the ragged center.
While Marco weakened, Laura’s potential got stronger, and forecasters raised the possibility of a major hurricane that would pummel western Louisiana and eastern Texas from late Wednesday into Thursday.
Once Laura passes Cuba, the system could quickly strengthen over warm water, which acts as fuel to supercharge the storm.
Forecasters predicted winds of 105 miles per hour before landfall, but some models showed an even stronger storm.