BREAKING: Storm Marco upgraded to hurricane

(OrlandoSentinel) – Florida won’t be directly impacted by the tropical storms, but it’ll see an increase in winds and tropical moisture, FOX35 meteorologist Allison Gargaro said.

Hurricane Marco formed in the Central Gulf Coast Sunday afternoon with maximum winds of up to 75 mph as Tropical Storm Laura closed in on reaching hurricane status — a potential double whammy for the U.S. Gulf Coast, according to the National Hurricane Center.

At 12:30 p.m., Marco was inching located about 300 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and 460 miles southeast of Lafayette, Louisiana. The storm was moving north-northwest at 14 mph, the hurricane center said.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Laura dumped heavy rain and life-threatening flash flooding over parts of Hispaniola.

Both Marco and Laura will narrowly avoid Florida, but the state will still see an indirect impact by way of wind gusts and rainfall.

“Florida is on the eastern side of both of those systems, so that means we are going to be seeing an increase in winds; an increase in tropical moisture, so more rain chances; and the potential for more tornado activity,” Fox-35 meteorologist Allison Gargaro said.

Gargaro said the potential for tornado activity is higher for more southern communities, according to data from the National Weather Service.

Laura’s latest track showed the storm still churning toward the Gulf of Mexico in what may become a historic clash of two storms simultaneously threatening the U.S. Gulf Coast.

At 11 a.m. Sunday, the NHC said, the center of Tropical Storm Laura was located about 70 miles northwest of Port au Prince, Haiti. Maximum-sustained winds were 50 mph with higher gusts, and tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 140 miles. The storm was moving west-northwest at 21 mph.

Laura is producing tropical storm conditions in parts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the Turks and Caicos, the southeastern Bahamas, and Cuba on Sunday, and this activity is expected to continue through Monday, the NHC said.

Laura is forecast to move into the Gulf of Mexico early next week and strengthen into a hurricane with an expected landfall in Louisiana or Mississippi – just days after Marco makes landfall in the same area, likely also as a hurricane.

Forecasters expect Laura to transform into a hurricane late Tuesday.

“On the forecast track, the center of Laura will move near or over Cuba tonight and Monday, and move over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico Monday night and Tuesday. Laura is expected to move over the central and northwestern Gulf of Mexico Tuesday night and Wednesday,” forecasters said.

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for the Florida Keys from Ocean Reef to Key West and the Dry Tortugas and Florida Bay, as well as for the central Bahamas and Andros Island.

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Puerto Rico and parts of the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Bahamas and Cuba. The warning along the northern coast of Haiti was extended at 11:25 a.m. to include the entire coast, the NHC said.

The government of Cuba issued a Tropical Storm Warning for the Pinar del Rio province and the Isle of Youth, according to the NHC.

“Some strengthening is anticipated and Marco is forecast to become a hurricane later today and be at hurricane strength when it approaches the northern Gulf Coast on Monday,” forecasters said. “A gradual turn toward the west-northwest with a decrease in forward speed is expected after Marco moves inland.”

Marco is expected to weaken after it makes landfall, according to the NHC.

The areas from Morgan City, Louisiana to the mouth of the Pearl River are under a Hurricane Warning from the NHC. A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Intracoastal City, Louisiana to the areas west of Morgan City, along with Metropolitan New Orleans.

The areas from Sabrine Pass to Morgan City, Louisiana; Ocean Springs, Mississippi to the Mississippi-Alabama border; and Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas are under a Storm Surge Watch.

A Storm Surge Warning remains in effect from Morgan City to Ocean Springs.

Marco is expected to produce between two to four inches of rain, and potentially up to a maximum of six inches, across the central U.S. Gulf Coast through Tuesday, the NHC said.

“This rainfall may result in isolated areas of flash and urban flooding along the Central U.S. Gulf Coast,” forecasters said.

Will Tropical Storms Laura and Marco clash?
The two storms’ forecast tracks appear to clash in the gulf, but as they crawl closer along their paths, the details of their potential meeting remain uncertain.

“It looks like there is a very high chance that both of the storms are going to be making landfall along the Louisiana coast,” Fox-35 meteorologist Allison Gargaro said.

[Popular on OrlandoSentinel.com] 2 hurricanes could swirl in Gulf of Mexico at the same time, forecasters say of TD 13 and 14 »
Two hurricanes have never appeared in the Gulf of Mexico at the same time, according to records going back to at least 1900, said Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach. The last time two tropical storms were in the Gulf together was in 1959, he said.

The projected tracks from the U.S. National Hurricane Center on Saturday afternoon pointed to both storms being together in the Gulf on Monday, with Marco hitting Louisiana and Laura making landfall in the same general area Wednesday. (WDTI Photo)
The last time two storms made landfall in the United States within 24 hours of each other was in 1933, Klotzbach said.

The projected tracks from the U.S. National Hurricane Center on Saturday afternoon pointed to both storms being together in the Gulf on Monday, with Marco hitting Louisiana and Laura making landfall in the same general area Wednesday. But large uncertainties remain for that time span, and forecasts have varied greatly so far for the two storms.

“Marco is going to be a few days ahead of Laura, but either way, this is going to be bringing some very strong winds and a huge impact to those communities,” Gargaro said.

HURRICANES
Once in a lifetime: two hurricanes, same time, same place

AUG 21, 2020 AT 4:44 PM
Preparing for the storms
“We are in unprecedented times,” Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said at a news conference Saturday as he declared a state of emergency. “We are dealing with not only two potential storms in the next few hours, we are also dealing with COVID-19.”

He urged residents to prepare for the storms and, if possible, find places to evacuate that are not public shelters.

People in Louisiana headed to stores to stock up on food, water and other supplies. Raymond Monday of Gretna, though, had only a generator on his cart at Sam’s Club. “We’ve got a freezer full of food” at home, along with large containers of water, he said.

Officials in the Florida Keys declared a local state of emergency Friday and issued a mandatory evacuation order for anyone living in boats, mobile homes and in recreational vehicles and campers. Tourists who are staying in hotels in the Florida Keys should be aware of hazardous weather conditions and consider altering their plans starting on Sunday, Monroe County officials said in a news release.

The order also says all recreational vehicles must be removed from the county by noon Sunday.

In Puerto Rico, the storm knocked down trees in the island’s southern region and left more than 200,000 clients without power and more than 10,000 without water across the U.S. territory.

Officials said they were most concerned about the thousands of people in Puerto Rico who still have been living under blue tarps since 2017′s Hurricane Maria and the hundreds of families living along the island’s southern coast in homes damaged by a string of strong earthquakes this year.

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Orlando Sentinel staff writers Roger Simmons, Matthew J. Palm and Lynnette Cantos, as well as The Associated Press, contributed to this report.

Joe Mario Pedersen

Joe Mario Pedersen is a member of the Sentinel’s Breaking News team. He’s a native of Florida, the home of the Florida Man. Originally from Fort Lauderdale, Joe is a University of Central Florida graduate with a major in Radio & Television. He worked for four years at The Villages Daily Sun, including on the newsroom’s multimedia story projects.
Richard Tribou

Richard Tribou is travel editor for OrlandoSentinel.com, Sun-Sentinel.com and TheDailyDisney.com with a focus on Florida travel. He often writes on cruises and theme parks and contributes to the the Go For Launch space blog, Theme Park Rangers, Gone Viral and The List.
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David Harris helps oversee the Orlando Sentinel newsroom at night as a content editor. He hails from Flint, Mich., is a graduate of Central Michigan University, and a huge Michigan football fan who is happy he doesn’t have to shovel snow anymore.
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Lisa Maria Garza

Lisa Maria Garza covers Winter Park, Maitland, Eatonville and east Orange County for the Orlando Sentinel. She previously reported general news for Reuters, based in Dallas, and graduated from the University of North Texas. Lisa, a San Antonio native, moved to Florida with her two cats but remains a loyal Spurs fan.
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