(CNN) — Louisiana officials are warning those who didn’t evacuate from mandatory zones before Hurricane Laura hit that rescue efforts won’t start until the surge has passed.
“Those choosing to stay and face this very dangerous storm must understand that rescue efforts cannot and will not begin until after storm and surge has passed and it is safe to do so,” the Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Thursday.
“Please evacuate, and if you choose to stay and we can’t get to you, write your name, address, social security number and next of kin and put it a Ziploc bag in your pocket. Praying that it does not come to this.”
With winds 150 mph strong, Laura made landfall near Cameron, Louisiana, as a Category 4 storm early Thursday morning. It has since weakened to a Category 3 storm, with winds at 120 mph.
The storm is tied with a hurricane from more than 160 years ago for the strongest storm to hit the state. The 1856 hurricane also had winds of 150 mph when it made landfall.
Before Hurricane Laura struck, water levels were rising rapidly along the coast, and forecasters warned of an “unsurvivable” storm surge of up to 20 feet and devastating winds. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards predicted parts of his state will be submerged.
The expected tidal surge will probably keep authorities from making it into the parish, where roughly 150 residents chose not to evacuate, until Friday or Saturday, the Cameron Parish, Louisiana, Assistant Director of Emergency Preparedness, Ashley Buller, told CNN.
Free bus transportation was provided to Lake Charles, Louisiana, residents who wanted to take shelter out of town.
Mayor Nic Hunter told CNN’s Chris Cuomo late Wednesday night that authorities “did everything humanly possible to get the message to people,” but he said he is afraid not enough people evacuated.
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