At least 59 counties in Texas are now under a disaster declaration, and Gov. Greg Abbott is predicting "a lot of devastation" when Hurricane Laura sweeps through the state. The storm, which became a Category 1 hurricane on Tuesday, is expected to gain strength from warm waters and be a Category 3 by the time it makes landfall on the Gulf Coast near the Texas-Louisiana border late Wednesday or early Thursday. Abbott said residents should brace for "very high winds" and storm surges of up to 10 feet, the New York Times reports. "There will be a lot of devastation wrecked upon Texas as the storm sweeps through," the governor said. Abbott said Laura would be more of a "wind event" than Hurricane Harvey, which caused devastating flooding in 2017, CBS reports.
"Tornadoes will be spawned,” Abbott warned. "People anywhere near where the eye of the hurricane will come ashore will need to be very aware of this high water surge and the devastation it can wreak." The AP reports that the approaching storm has caused the largest US evacuation of the pandemic, with more than 385,000 residents told to leave the Texas cities of Beaumont, Galveston, and Port Arthur, and at least 200,000 told to flee Calcasieu Parish in Louisiana. The National Hurricane Center warned Tuesday that the storm surge "could penetrate up to 30 miles inland from the immediate coastline in southwestern Louisiana and far southeastern Texas," though the area is sparsely populated, the Washington Post reports. The NHC also warned that the track could be adjusted westward by up to 30 miles, which would bring it closer to Houston. (Read more hurricane stories.)