Since our last report, Laura has continued to gradually intensify over the Gulf of Mexico. While there hasn’t been rapid intensification yet, that is likely to come as it approaches the Texas-Louisiana coastlines. Now, where is it headed?
When we reported early Tuesday morning, models had shifted somewhat to the west. At that time, the National Hurricane Center issued hurricane warnings from Freeport to Morgan City, Louisiana. We were concerned about a trend in the models to make the ridge of high pressure over the eastern U.S. stronger forcing Laura farther to the west.
As the day went on, those models began to gradually move back eastward, if only slightly. But, when it comes to hurricane landfalls, slightly can mean a lot.
For a couple days, the NHC forecast has called for landfall around the Texas-Louisiana border or just slightly east of there toward Lake Charles. That appears to now be a pretty accurate prediction with models coming into much better agreement on a landfall right near the state line.
That would mean Houston would escape most of the weather. We would be in line for a breezy day with some clouds and maybe a shower or two, but the worst of it would be well to our east between Beaumont and Louisiana.
Still, as we saw on Tuesday, forecasts can shift and the NHC still shows up to a 60-mile variance in landfall with just about a day to go, so even a small shift west could put Houston and Galveston back in the crosshairs for stronger winds and more rain. But, it does appear at this point that the storm track will fall far enough to our east to avoid the worst of it.
Given the intensity forecasts, that is a good thing. While no rapid intensification has occurred today while Laura gets its act together in forming a tight inner core, tomorrow the warm waters of the Gulf should allow the storm to grow into a major category 3 storm with winds around 110 to 120 mph. It could even reach category 4 status and it continues to strengthen right up until landfall.
By early tomorrow, we should just about be able to rule out a landfall in Houston assuming things remain the same over night and we may be able to get past Laura unscathed. Stay tuned.