Officials in Houston warn of "unprecedented devastation" - NBC's Morgan Chesky reports
HOUSTON, Tex. (KYMA, KECY/NBC News) - Officials issue dire warnings in the face of a major hurricane.
Hurricane "Laura" forecasted to be a category 3 or bigger when it makes land on Wednesday.
Already, hundreds of thousands in Texas are under mandatory evacuation orders. However, officials warn millions of lives are at risk. The National Guard has already prepositioned rescue assets across the projected impact zone.
Millions on the Gulf coast are now digging in or getting out.
"It's better to prepare now than at the last minute go oh, I'm out of time." said one resident.
The damage from Tropical Storm Marco was apparently a mere warmup for what's to come. Laura now expected to hit Texas and Louisiana as a category 3 hurricane. That's prompted major evacuations.
"If you're going to stay, you know that beginning tomorrow for sure by noon, don't dial 911 for sure no one's going to answer and you are on your own." said Mayor Thurman Bartie of Port Arthur, Texas.
"Here in Port Arthur, people aren't taking any chances. With a population of more than 50,000 people - the goal, get everyone onboard these buses before Laura hits." said NBC's Morgan Chesky.
The mission is further complicated by COVID 19. Those leaving town are checked for fever and given a wristband. Each person is scanned before boarding buses bound for shelters.
"You've seen Rita, you've seen Ike, you've seen Harvey, you're not waiting for this one?" asked Morgan Chesky.
"Uh uh. It's time to go." responds the resident.
Others are doing whatever they can. Newlyweds Chris and Carlyanne Higgins hope sandbags are enough to save their first home.
"The strategy is to cover up the doors, all our openings, put these around there and hopefully just prepare for the flooding." said Chris.
With storm surge expected to surpass 13 feet, Laura's already drawing comparisons to 2005's Hurricane Rita. It caused $12-billion in damage.
The next 24-hours should be telling.
"You need to be prepared for the possibility not the probability that you will be losing power for some period of time." said Gov. Greg Abbott, (R-Tex.)