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Yesterday, the scale of the hurricane was captured from space by International Space Station astronaut Chris Cassidy. Photos uploaded to Twitter by the ISS commander show a vast rotating circle of cloud with the storm’s ‘eye’ clearly visible in the middle. NASA has said the storm is more than 350 miles across.
The astronaut posted the four photos alongside the message: “Stay safe everyone.”
Over half a million people have been told to evacuate from the storm’s path.
The US National Hurricane Center has warned of a “catastrophic” and “unsurvivable” storm surge, as well as extremely high sustained wind speeds of 150 miles per hour and flash flooding.
All are expected between late Wednesday and early this morning local time.
The National Hurricane Center said: “A Storm Surge Warning means there is a danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline in the indicated locations.
“This is a life-threatening situation.
“Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other dangerous conditions. Promptly follow evacuation and other instructions from local officials.”
READ: Hurricane Laura could trigger huge spike in coronavirus cases as scientists issue warning
The NHC also posted a storm surge warning to Twitter, where it wrote: “Unsurvivable storm surge with large and destructive waves will cause catastrophic damage from Sea Rim State Park, Texas, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana, including Calcasieu and Sabine Lakes.
“This surge could penetrate up to 30 miles inland from the immediate coastline.”
If Hurricane Laura’s maximum sustained wind speeds reach or exceed 158 miles per hour, it will become a Category Five storm.
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The categories are based on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which ranks hurricane strength between one and five with five being the most severe.
Under the scale, both Category 4 and 5 storms will cause “catastrophic damage” with properties destroyed, leaving most of the area “uninhabitable for weeks or months.”
According to the BBC, if Hurricane Laura maintains its expected wind speeds it could be one of the strongest storms the US south coast has ever seen.
The centre of the storm is expected to move over northwestern parts of the state of Louisiana today and across Arkansas tonight.
Lousiana governor Jon Bel Edwards has compared the storm to the Category 5 Hurricane Rita which struck the area around 15 years ago.
He said in a statement earlier this week: “Understand right now, the strength of this hurricane is going to be akin to Rita. Not to Marco or any of the other storms, and that’s why we need to continue to prepare and continue to pray.”
Marco hit Louisiana on Monday this week, though it was downgraded in strength to a tropical storm.
Both Marco and Laura hit the Caribbean this week, leaving 24 dead, the BBC reports.
The storm is expected to rapidly weaken after it makes landfall.
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