Hurricane Laura Raises Fears for Lake Charles Bridge Rated 'Structurally Deficient'

As Hurricane Laura made landfall in Louisiana, portions of the Interstate 10 (I-10) Calcasieu River Bridge, which stretches between Lake Charles and Westlake, were closed, with an "unsurvivable storm surge" and "catastrophic damage" expected from the hurricane, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) announced Wednesday that parts of the I-10 Bridge, which is currently rated as "structurally deficient" by the U.S. Department of Transportation, have been closed "due to the imminent arrival of Hurricane Laura," the DOTD noted.

The DOTD advised: "I-10 eastbound is closed at the Texas/Louisiana state line, and I-10 westbound is closed west of the Atchafalaya Basin. To detour the closure and avoid undrivable conditions, motorists should use U.S 61, I-55, and I-59 and travel north to connect with I-20."

The latest closure came ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Laura, which made landfall early Thursday in southwest Louisiana near the Texas border, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The NHC confirmed Hurricane Laura intensified rapidly before hitting land with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour as a Category Four hurricane near Cameron, a small community based east of the Texas border, AP reported.

The NHC warned: "Unsurvivable storm surge with large and destructive waves will cause catastrophic damage," noting the storm surge could reach 15 to 20 feet in Port Arthur, Texas, and in a stretch of Louisiana including Lake Charles.

"This surge could penetrate up to 40 miles inland from the immediate coastline, and flood waters will not fully recede for several days," the NHC added.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards noted Wednesday: "I heard language today from the National Weather Service...that I've never heard before," on Louisiana's WWL radio station.

The National Weather Service warned Thursday: "An extreme wind warning is in effect for Beaumont TX, Lake Charles LA, Port Arthur TX until 1:00 AM CDT for extremely dangerous hurricane winds. Treat these imminent extreme winds as if a tornado was approaching and move immediately to an interior room or shelter NOW!," in a post on its official Twitter account.

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect from the High Island area of Texas to the mouth of the Mississippi River, while a Hurricane Warning is in place from the High Island area to the Intracoastal City region of Louisiana.

A Tropical Storm Warning is also in effect from the area east of Intracoastal City to the mouth of the Mississippi River, the NHC noted in its latest report Thursday.

"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," the NHC warned.

Over 580,000 coastal residents have been ordered to evacuate in what's reportedly been the largest evacuation since the COVID-19 pandemic began, AP reported.

Lake Charles, Louisiana, bridge, September 2005
Floodwaters engulf the shorefront of Lake Charles, Louisiana on September 24, 2005, with the closed bridge of Highway I-10 seen in the background. Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images
Hurricane Laura Raises Fears for Lake Charles Bridge Rated 'Structurally Deficient' | News