NEW ORLEANS — Tropical Storm Marco began falling apart Monday, easing one threat to the Gulf Coast but setting the stage for the arrival of Laura as a potentially supercharged Category 3 hurricane with winds topping 110 miles per hour and a storm surge that could swamp entire towns.
The two-storm combination could bring a history-making onslaught of wind and coastal flooding from Texas to Alabama, all complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, forecasters said.
Still a tropical storm for now, Laura churned just south of Cuba after killing at least 11 people in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, where it knocked out power and caused flooding in the two nations that share the island of Hispaniola. The deaths reportedly included a 10-year-old girl whose home was hit by a tree and a mother and young son who were crushed by a collapsing wall.
Laura was not expected to weaken over land before moving into warm, deep Gulf waters that forecasters said could bring rapid intensification late Wednesday into Thursday.
“We’re only going to dodge the bullet so many times. And the current forecast for Laura has it focused intently on Louisiana,” Governor John Bel Edwards told a news briefing.
Shrimp trawlers and fishing boats were tied up in a Louisiana harbor ahead of the storms. Red flags warned swimmers away from the pounding surf. Both in-person classes and virtual school sessions required because of the coronavirus pandemic were canceled in some districts.
A food bank that has been twice as busy as normal since March providing meals to people affected by the pandemic prepared to shut down for a few days because of the weather, but not before distributing a last round of provisions to the needy.
State emergencies were declared in Louisiana and Mississippi, and shelters were being opened with cots set farther apart, among other measures designed to curb infections.