Major Hurricane Laura is going to be so extreme in portions of Louisiana and Texas that even the National Weather Service is fleeing for safer ground. Senior Meteorologist Joe Rua from the Lake Charles office of the National Weather Service (NWS) wrote on Facebook, “With the latest track and intensity of Hurricane Laura it has been deemed unsafe for us to be at the NWS Lake Charles Office. I am evacuating to Slidell Louisiana and will be (sic) probably help out some at the NWS office over t there until further notice. Do not know when I will be back in town. Everyone stay safe and heed mandatory evacuation orders.”
The forecast office area of responsibility typically consists of 20 to 50 counties though some counties are split between offices based upon geographical features. In the case of the Lake Charles office, they are responsible for the area considered “ground zero” for Hurricane Laura, between the Houston and New Orleans / Slidell offices.
The Lake Charles office is one of 122 forecast offices around the country. Most are housed in stand-alone buildings but some are co-located in other federal buildings or with other agencies. A few offices are also located at universities where there is a strong tie to the academic research community. The Doppler radar may be located adjacent to the office or many miles away.
With the Lake Charles office abandoned, other National Weather Service offices are taking over their responsibilities. Every office has a plan to incorporate a second and third back-up location should a disaster unfold there. Currently the Tampa Bay office of the National Weather Service located in Ruskin, Florida is issuing many of the products Lake Charles would normally provide. The Houston / Galveston office of the National Weather Service in Texas is also providing support.
Major Hurricane Laura is forecast to impact the region tonight as a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane. An “unsurvivable” storm surge is expected to spread water from the Gulf of Mexico up to 30+ miles inland from the coast. At the coast itself, the storm surge may reach heights of 20 feet, with waves, possible dozens of feet high, on top of that.