Tropical storms Marco and Laura both heading to U.S. Gulf Coast

Tropical storm Marco is swirling over the Gulf of Mexico heading for a possible hit on the Louisiana coast as a hurricane, while tropical storm Laura knocked utilities out as it battered Hispaniola early Sunday, following a track forecast to take it to the same part of the U.S. coast, also as a hurricane.

It would be the first time two hurricanes appear in the Gulf of Mexico simultaneously, according to records dating to at least 1900, said Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

A hurricane watch was issued for the New Orleans metro area, which Hurricane Katrina pummeled in August 2005.

Forecasts for both storms uncertain

The projected tracks from the U.S. National Hurricane Center late Saturday pointed to both storms being together in the Gulf on Monday, with Marco hitting Louisiana’s coast around midday and Laura making landfall in the same general area Wednesday. But there was still much uncertainty surrounding the forecasts for the two storms.

“It’s entirely possible that the volatile shifts seen in the models could continue,” the hurricane centre said.

Laura was centred about 150 kilometres east of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Sunday morning, with maximum sustained winds of 75 km/h. It was moving west-northwest at 30 km/h.

This map from the U.S. National Hurricane Center shows the locations of tropical storms Marco and Laura at 5 a.m. ET Sunday. (U.S. National Hurricane Center)

Crews armed with megaphones in the Dominican Republican capital of Santo Domingo had urged dozens of residents in flood-prone areas to evacuate before Laura’s heavy rains hit. The storm left more than 100,000 people without water in the Dominican Republic on Saturday night, while earlier it snapped trees and knocked out power to more than 200,000 customers in neighbouring Puerto Rico.

It was also whipping at Haiti, which shares Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, and forecast to move over Cuba on Sunday night or Monday.

Officials in the Florida Keys, which Laura might pass over on its route into the Gulf, declared a local state of emergency and issued a mandatory evacuation order for anyone living on boats, in mobile homes and in campers. Tourists staying in hotels were warned to be aware of hazardous weather conditions and consider changing their plans starting Sunday.

Tropical storm warning for New Orleans

Marco, meanwhile, was centred about 635 kilometres south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and was moving to the north-northwest at 20 km/h. It had maximum sustained winds of 110 km/h and could become a hurricane sometime Sunday.

New warnings were added Sunday morning — including a storm surge warning from Morgan City, La., to Ocean Springs, Miss., and a hurricane warning from Morgan City to the mouth of the Pearl River. A tropical storm warning included Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana, and metropolitan New Orleans.

Storm surge up to two metres was forecast for parts of coastal Louisiana and Mississippi.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who declared a state of emergency Friday, asked President Donald Trump for a federal emergency declaration. “The cumulative impact of these storms will likely have much of Louisiana facing tropical storm/hurricane force impacts for a much longer period of time than it would with any one hurricane,” he wrote.

People in Louisiana headed to stores to stock up on food, water and other supplies. Raymond Monday of Gretna, though, had only a generator on his cart at Sam’s Club. “We’ve got a freezer full of food” at home, along with large containers of water, he said.

Galveston County Judge Mark Henry gives an update on tropical storm Marco and tropical storm Laura from the Office of Emergency Management in League City, Texas, on Saturday. (Jennifer Reynold/Galveston County Daily News via The Associated Press)

Both storms were expected to bring eight to 15 centimetres of rain to areas they were passing over or near, threatening flooding.

The hurricane centre said the storms were not expected to interact as the region faces an unusually active hurricane season.

“We are in unprecedented times,” Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said at a news conference Saturday as he declared a state of emergency. “We are dealing with not only two potential storms in the next few hours, we are also dealing with COVID-19.”

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