The National Hurricane Center now was that Hurricane Laura's top sustained winds have hit 150 miles per hour.
That is near the top of the category 4 level, with category 5 starting at 157. Forecasters say Laura could get there.
"Reports from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that the maximum sustained winds have increased to near 150 mph," the Hurricane Center advised. "Some additional strengthening is possible tonight before Laura reaches the northwest Gulf coast overnight."
Laura is starting to run out of time.
"On the forecast track, Laura will approach the upper Texas and southwest Louisiana coasts this evening and move inland within that area tonight. The center of Laura is forecast to move over northwestern Louisiana tomorrow, across Arkansas Thursday night, and over the mid-Mississippi Valley on Friday."
The Hurricane Center says people must get out of Laura's path and forecast 20 foot storm surge.
"Storm surge and tropical-storm-force winds will arrive within the warning areas well in advance of Laura's center. All preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion in the next few hours."
The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. The water could reach the following heights above ground somewhere in the indicated areas if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide...
* Johnson Bayou LA to Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge including Calcasieu Lake 15-20 ft* Sea Rim State Park TX to Johnson Bayou LA including Sabine Lake...10-15 ft* Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge to Intracoastal City LA...10-15 ft* Intracoastal City LA to Morgan City including Vermilion Bay...8-12 ft* Port Bolivar TX to Sea Rim State Park...6-9 ft* Morgan City LA to Mouth of the Mississippi River...4-7 ft* Freeport TX to Port Bolivar including Galveston Bay...2-4 ft* Mouth of the Mississippi River to Ocean Springs MS including Lake Borgne...1-3 ft* Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas...1-3 ft
The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the right of the landfall location, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.
Unsurvivable storm surge with large and destructive waves will cause catastrophic damage from Sea Rim State Park, Texas, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana, including Calcasieu and Sabine Lakes. This surge could penetrate up to 40 miles inland from the immediate coastline, and flood waters will not fully recede for several days after the storm.
Hurricane conditions are expected in the hurricane warning area tonight and Thursday, with catastrophic wind damage expected where Laura's eyewall moves onshore tonight. Tropical storm conditions are moving onshore along the coast of Louisiana within the tropical storm warning area and are expected to spreadnorthwestward within the warning areas this evening.
Hurricane-force winds and damaging wind gusts are also expected to spread well inland into portions of eastern Texas and western Louisiana early Thursday.
From this evening through Friday, Laura is expected to produce the following rainfall totals:
Across the northwestern Gulf Coast from far southwest Louisiana and the Golden Triangle of Southeast Texas: 8 to 12 inches with isolated totals of 18 inches.Across central and the rest of western Louisiana into far eastern Texas: 5 to 10 inches with isolated totals of 15 inches.Across much of Arkansas: 3 to 7 inches with isolated totals of 10 inches.
This rainfall will cause widespread flash and urban flooding, small streams and creeks to overflow their banks, and minor to moderate freshwater river flooding.
By Friday into Saturday, Laura is expected to produce the following rainfall totals:
Across the mid-Mississippi and portions of the Tennessee Valley, Lower Ohio Valley, and central Appalachians: 2 to 4 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 6 inches. This rainfall may lead to flash and urban flooding and rapid rises on small streams.Across the Mid-Atlantic Region: 1 to 3 inches.
Several tornadoes are expected this evening through tonight over Louisiana, far southeast Texas, and southwestern Mississippi. The risk for a few tornadoes will continue into Thursday across Louisiana, Arkansas, and western Mississippi.
Swells produced by Laura are affecting the U.S. Gulf coast from the west coast of Florida to Texas and northeastern Mexico. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions. Please consult products from your local weather office.