Tropical Storm Laura forecast to intensify to hurricane strength as it heads toward Gulf

Tropical Storm Laura is forecast to enter the Gulf of Mexico and head toward the U.S. coast later in the week.Laura brought torrential rain over parts of southern Cuba before moving over the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea.The storm continues to move west-northwest at 20 mph.Laura is forecast to move over the central and northwest Gulf of Mexico Tuesday night and Wednesday, and approach the northwest coast of the Gulf Wednesday night.It is expected to become a hurricane on Tuesday.Laura was centered about 140 miles east of the western tip of Cuba, the National Hurricane Center said in its 8 p.m. update. It will gradually intensify as it moves over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. Maximum sustained winds are 65 mph. Laura caused the deaths of at least 11 people in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, while knocking out power and causing flooding in the two nations that share the island of Hispaniola.For current, area-specific storm watches and warnings in effect for Laura, click here Haitian civil protection officials said they had received reports a 10-year-old girl was killed when a tree fell on a home in the southern coastal town of Anse-a-Pitres, on the border with the Dominican Republic. Haiti’s prime minister said at least eight other people died and two were missing. In the Dominican Republic, relatives told reporters a collapsed wall killed a mother and her young son.Hundreds of thousands were without power in the Dominican Republic amid heavy flooding in both countries. Video: Tropical Storm Laura batters Dominican Republic Residents prepare for stormsResidents along the Gulf Coast have been watching the track of Laura, along with Tropical Storm Marco, which was downgraded from a hurricane Sunday. Marco has maximum sustained winds at 60 mph with higher gusts. Despite the slight weakening, tropical storm and storm surge warnings remain in effect for portions of the northern Gulf Coast.”Considering the shear is only forecast to increase, there is no significant chance that Marco re-intensifies to a hurricane, and the hurricane warnings have been replaced with tropical storm warnings,” the National Hurricane Center said in an update.The forecast track still takes the system toward southwest Louisiana Tuesday night.The National Hurricane Center says if the trend in this shift is correct, some of the impacts over portions of the north-central Gulf Coast could be lessened.New Orleans resident Matthew Meloy and two friends loaded a van with cases of bottled water in the parking lot of a New Orleans Walmart Sunday. He said they still had a lot of storm preparations ahead. “Check the batteries, flashlights, stocking up on food and trying to park the car on the highest point possible we can find,” Meloy said. “I already spent like 40 minutes this morning filling up the tanks in the cars.”Tourists were strolling through the New Orleans French Quarter under overcast skies as workers boarded up shop windows. Louisiana corrections officials were evacuating 500 inmates from a jail in Plaquemines Parish, near the coast, to another facility in preparation for the storms.In Kenner, just outside New Orleans, resident P.J. Hahn said checkout lines in a Sam’s Club reached to the back of the store, while authorities said 114 oil and gas producing platforms in the Gulf have been evacuated as the storms churn toward the Louisiana coast.Video: Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards urging residents to prepare now for shelter in place In Empire, Louisiana, about 50 miles south of New Orleans near the mouth of the Mississippi River, shrimp, oyster and fishing boats line the docks. It was eerily quiet Sunday evening, as most fishermen had already secured their boats. Mike Bartholemey was putting extra blocks of wood under his recently dry docked 50-foot shrimp boat “Big Mike,” out of his concern that hurricane winds might topple his boat to the ground.In Venice, a fishing town on the Mississippi River, shrimper Acy Cooper was up early Sunday to move his three shrimp boats from the harbor into the bayous nearby to ride out the storm. It’s the same area where he moored his boat during Hurricane Katrina. The boat survived; his house in Venice did not.

Tropical Storm Laura is forecast to enter the Gulf of Mexico and head toward the U.S. coast later in the week.

Laura brought torrential rain over parts of southern Cuba before moving over the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea.

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The storm continues to move west-northwest at 20 mph.

Laura is forecast to move over the central and northwest Gulf of Mexico Tuesday night and Wednesday, and approach the northwest coast of the Gulf Wednesday night.

It is expected to become a hurricane on Tuesday.

Laura was centered about 140 miles east of the western tip of Cuba, the National Hurricane Center said in its 8 p.m. update.

It will gradually intensify as it moves over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. Maximum sustained winds are 65 mph.

Laura caused the deaths of at least 11 people in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, while knocking out power and causing flooding in the two nations that share the island of Hispaniola.

For current, area-specific storm watches and warnings in effect for Laura, click here

Haitian civil protection officials said they had received reports a 10-year-old girl was killed when a tree fell on a home in the southern coastal town of Anse-a-Pitres, on the border with the Dominican Republic. Haiti’s prime minister said at least eight other people died and two were missing. In the Dominican Republic, relatives told reporters a collapsed wall killed a mother and her young son.

Hundreds of thousands were without power in the Dominican Republic amid heavy flooding in both countries.

Video: Tropical Storm Laura batters Dominican Republic

Residents prepare for storms

Residents along the Gulf Coast have been watching the track of Laura, along with Tropical Storm Marco, which was downgraded from a hurricane Sunday.

Marco has maximum sustained winds at 60 mph with higher gusts.

Despite the slight weakening, tropical storm and storm surge warnings remain in effect for portions of the northern Gulf Coast.

“Considering the shear is only forecast to increase, there is no significant chance that Marco re-intensifies to a hurricane, and the hurricane warnings have been replaced with tropical storm warnings,” the National Hurricane Center said in an update.

The forecast track still takes the system toward southwest Louisiana Tuesday night.

The National Hurricane Center says if the trend in this shift is correct, some of the impacts over portions of the north-central Gulf Coast could be lessened.

New Orleans resident Matthew Meloy and two friends loaded a van with cases of bottled water in the parking lot of a New Orleans Walmart Sunday. He said they still had a lot of storm preparations ahead.

“Check the batteries, flashlights, stocking up on food and trying to park the car on the highest point possible we can find,” Meloy said. “I already spent like 40 minutes this morning filling up the tanks in the cars.”

Tourists were strolling through the New Orleans French Quarter under overcast skies as workers boarded up shop windows. Louisiana corrections officials were evacuating 500 inmates from a jail in Plaquemines Parish, near the coast, to another facility in preparation for the storms.

In Kenner, just outside New Orleans, resident P.J. Hahn said checkout lines in a Sam’s Club reached to the back of the store, while authorities said 114 oil and gas producing platforms in the Gulf have been evacuated as the storms churn toward the Louisiana coast.

Video: Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards urging residents to prepare now for shelter in place

In Empire, Louisiana, about 50 miles south of New Orleans near the mouth of the Mississippi River, shrimp, oyster and fishing boats line the docks. It was eerily quiet Sunday evening, as most fishermen had already secured their boats. Mike Bartholemey was putting extra blocks of wood under his recently dry docked 50-foot shrimp boat “Big Mike,” out of his concern that hurricane winds might topple his boat to the ground.

In Venice, a fishing town on the Mississippi River, shrimper Acy Cooper was up early Sunday to move his three shrimp boats from the harbor into the bayous nearby to ride out the storm. It’s the same area where he moored his boat during Hurricane Katrina.

The boat survived; his house in Venice did not.