PORT ARTHUR, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) — The Mayor of one South Texas city is calling for a voluntary evacuation, as Tropical Storm Warnings for Marco are cancelled and the Gulf Coast braces for the arrival of Laura as a potential Category 2 hurricane.
Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie is calling for the voluntary exit of residents living in low-lying areas and west of the end of the Seawall effective Monday, August 24 at 1:00 p.m.
A number of Southeast Texas school districts have already cancelled both virtual and in-person classes ahead of Tropical Storm Marco, which began falling apart Monday.
Here is the latest GFS model run showing tropical winds (45mph and above), it is closest to the new more western NHC track of #Laura. Currently eye is forecast to go over Port Arthur and the extensive oil refineries located there. #CBS11wx #dfwwx #txwx pic.twitter.com/IFWIwPFURa
— Jeffrey Ray (@cbs11jeffrey) August 23, 2020
Still a tropical storm for now, Laura is expected to gain full hurricane strength before making landfall along the Texas-Louisiana border. Laura has already killed at least 11 people in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and once the system passes Cuba it could quickly strengthen over the warm waters of the Gulf.
Some forecasters are predicting Laura will have winds of 105 mph before making landfall, and some models show her being an even stronger storm.
Officials in Chambers County have declared a local state of disaster because of the incoming storms.
Ahead of both Tropical Storms Marco and Laura, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) granted a federal emergency declaration request made by Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday.
The largest oil refinery in the United States is located in Port Arthur. The Valero Port Arthur Refinery is located on the Texas Gulf Coast, some 90 miles east of Houston.
Valero will reportedly keep the 335,000 barrel-per-day facility running during the severe weather.