NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Gulf Coast braced Sunday for a potentially devastating hit from twin hurricanes as two strong storms swirled toward the U.S from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Officials feared a history-making onslaught of life-threatening winds and flooding along the coast, stretching from Louisiana into Alabama.
A storm dubbed Marco grew into a hurricane Sunday as it moved up the Gulf of Mexico toward Louisiana. Another potential hurricane, Tropical Storm Laura, lashed the Dominican Republic and Haiti and was targeting the same region of the U.S. coast.
The strength of tropical storms can ebb and flow, but it could be the first time two hurricanes form in the Gulf of Mexico simultaneously, according to records dating to at least 1900, said Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.
“What we know is there’s going to be storm surge from Marco, we know that that water is not going to recede hardly at all before Laura hits, and so we’ve not seen this before and that’s why people need to be paying particular attention,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a Sunday briefing.
With the potential the storms could overlap, parts of Louisiana, especially in south-central portions of the state, could see rainfall up to 2 feet, said Benjamin Schott, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service’s Slidell, Louisiana, office.
Along the main drag on the barrier island of Grand Isle, south of New Orleans, Starfish Restaurant manager Nicole Fantiny could see an exodus of people driving off the island.
“They are all packing up and leaving,” she said, speaking of the many people who own homes on the island and come out for vacations and weekend trips.
Fanity lives full-time on the island and wasn’t planning to leave, at least for Marco, but she was anxious about the possible one-two punch of Marco followed quickly by Laura. Her husband works with the town’s fire and police departments, so she said they are always among the last ones to leave.
“My house was built in 1938 so I think we’re good,” she said hopefully.
Martin reported from Atlanta.