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The U.S. Gulf Coast was walloped by Hurricane Laura overnight, bringing “unsurvivable storm surge with large, destructive waves” to coastal areas of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, according to the National Weather Service.
Anticipating widespread devastation in the storm’s wake, the U.S. Coast Guard already began staging personnel and assets on the perimeter of the storm’s predicted path.
Currently on standby are 15 Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopters, seven Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawks accompanied by three H-60 Blackhawk helicopters from U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations. The Coast Guard also has 6 HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplanes and CBP AMO has one fixed-wing aircraft on hand for rescue operations, according to Petty Officer Jonathan Lally, a spokesman for the USCG Heartland District, which includes the states Laura is aimed to hit.
Hurricane Laura made landfall Wednesday night into Thursday morning as a strong Category 4 hurricane with winds in excess of 150 miles per hour, according to the Weather Service. Storm surge was predicted to reach 15 feet (4.5 meters) to 20 feet (6 m) in the worst hit areas of southwest Louisiana and expected to push 30 miles (48 kilometers) inland. The storm had pressed inland through Louisiana by Thursday morning, holding its shape but devolving into a Category 2 storm.
“If you need to evacuate, do so NOW. Surge will begin today, well ahead of the strongest winds,” the Weather Service urged on Twitter.
Unsurvivable storm surge with large, destructive waves will cause catastrophic damage from Sea Rim State Park, TX, to Intracoastal City, LA. Surge could penetrate up to 30 miles inland.
If you need to evacuate, do so NOW. Surge will begin today, well ahead of the strongest winds pic.twitter.com/H6ZgRAiJ14
— National Weather Service (@NWS) August 26, 2020
Coast Guard aircrews in New Orleans began conducting maintenance for their Dolphin helicopters on Aug. 25 to ensure the aircraft are ready to rapidly respond for post-storm emergencies.
“Following the storms, our crews will be ready to respond to any emergent need as well as to conduct post-storm assessments of the ports to ensure that we are able to continue the flow of maritime commerce,” Lt. Ted Warren, an MH-65 Dolphin pilot with Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans, said in a video published by the Coast Guard.
Aircrews and helicopters from the Army National Guard and other Coast Guard districts are on alert to assist if necessary. The Louisiana National Guard is on standby with 15 UH-72 Lakota and UH-60 helicopters, five of which have hoisting capability.
As #Laura continues to strengthen we are prepared for search and rescue missions day or night. With 15 aircraft on standby of which 5 with hoisting capabilities our Guardsmen are ready to #ProtectWhatMatters pic.twitter.com/aAFGYs6bob
— LA National Guard (@LANationalGuard) August 25, 2020
The Texas National Guard has over 1,000 members activated for hurricane response, with at least 20 aviation assets to include UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters and C-130 fixed-wing aircraft standing by.