A SCHOOLGIRL has died along with six others after Hurricane Laura ripped through Louisiana yesterday.
The 14-year-old’s death was the first reported from the storm as it made landfall in the south west of the state as a ferocious Category 4 monster with 150 mph winds.
The teen reportedly died when a tree fell on her family’s home in Leesville becoming Laura’s sixth victim.
Although the storm made landfall as a Category 4, it was downgraded to Category 1 yesterday morning with 85mph winds, according to experts.
And it was downgraded to a Tropical Storm on Thursday afternoon.
More than 850,000 homes across Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas were without power yesterday, according to poweroutage.us.
As the storm continued to make its way across the South, Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared an emergency in Arkansas.
The National Hurricane Center said the hurricane, which intensified rapidly before plowing into land, came ashore at 1am CDT near Cameron, a 400-person community near the Texas border.
However, the damage that forecasters warned could be “unsurvivable” has not been as extensive as initially feared.
“It is clear that we did not sustain and suffer the absolute, catastrophic damage that we thought was likely,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said.
“But we have sustained a tremendous amount of damage.”
Winds of up to 150ft ripped apart buildings, leveled trees and tossed vehicles like toys, pictures show.
Photos revealed the devastating aftermath from the storm, as windows were blown out of buildings, power lines and trees were downed and areas were flooded.
The National Hurricane Center warned just before noon yesterday that a “dangerous storm surge” would cause increased water levels for a few hours across the Gulf Coast.
NHC warned of “damaging winds and flooding rainfall” across parts of Louisiana.
Authorities had implored coastal residents of Texas and Louisiana to evacuate.
But not everyone did before howling winds began buffeting trees back and forth in an area that was devastated by Hurricane Rita in 2005.
Many residents of Lake Charles and nearby areas cannot afford to evacuate.
The storm grew by nearly 70 per cent in the past day alone, drawing energy from the warm Gulf of Mexico waters.
Forecasters had predicted that Laura will be the most powerful hurricane to hit the US so far this year.
While over the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita reached Category 5 strength in 2005, reducing to Category 3 when they made landfall.
Katrina, however, pushed a deadly storm surge that reached 28 feet in some areas, leading to 1,833 confirmed deaths after New Orleans flooded from poor protections.
Gov. Edwards feared parts of his state will be submerged.
He told WWL Radio: “There will be parts of Lake Charles underwater that no living human being has ever seen before.
“We are marshaling all of our people and assets to go in … and start a very robust search and rescue effort.”
A Category 5 storm requires sustained winds of at least 157 mph.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Gov. Edwards both expressed concerns that not enough coastal residents had heeded warnings to evacuate ahead of the storm.
“The power of #HurricaneLaura is deadly, & Texans must take action now to get out of harm’s way & protect themselves & their loved ones,” Abbott tweeted on Wednesday.
“The conditions of this storm are unsurvivable, Texans in the path of the storm are urged to evacuate immediately.”
Edwards added that it’s important for residents to stay up to date on weather conditions that may accompany the hurricane such as flash floods.
“As the initial effects of #Laura start to enter Louisiana, it is important that everyone is aware of the potential for tornadoes, flash floods and other weather events related to the storm,” he tweeted.
By Wednesday afternoon, the storm had maximum sustained winds of 140mph as it made its way toward land, about 200 miles from Lake Charles, Louisiana.
The National Guard was on the ground in Lake Charles on Wednesday with buses offering to take residents in the evacuation zones to safety.
Joel Cline, tropical program coordinator at the National Weather Service, urged residents to listen to these evacuation warnings.
“Heed the advice of your local authorities,” he said. “If they tell you to go, go! Your life depends on it today.”
“It’s a serious day and you need to listen to them.”
Laura already left catastrophic effects in its wake before making its way toward the US, killing 20 people in Haiti and three in the Dominican Republic.
The storm knocked out power and caused severe flooding.