Gearing Up For Hurricane Laura
Gary Saurage owns and operates the Gator Country Adventure Park, an animal sanctuary and zoo in southwest Beaumont. He’s been through eight major storms in the 15 years he’s owned the park. On Wednesday, he was preparing for the worst:
“This is gonna look like somebody just took a bunch of toothpicks and threw them on the ground,” Saurage told Texas Standard.
He and his wife decided not to evacuate, and stay in the park’s main visitor’s building to ride out the storm.
“When the sun comes up in the morning … I probably won’t have a house here, I probably won’t have a business here. And so, we’re just – my wife and I are just trying to put that in our brain.”
But that wasn’t what happened. His house and business are still intact because Hurricane Laura landed farther east.
“I’m used to waking up after these hurricanes and walking through 4 or 5 foot of water, but I just can’t believe it – I mean, we are totally unimpacted,” Saurage said.
Jefferson County Spared The Worst
Hurricane Laura made landfall early Thursday morning near Cameron, Louisiana, about 40 miles from the Texas border. It was the most powerful storm ever recorded in the region. Texas Gulf Coast communities were spared the worst of the storm, but they’re still feeling its effects.
Residents of Jefferson County, Texas, were under a mandatory, countywide evacuation order starting Tuesday morning. That included Port Arthur and Beaumont, the county seat, which is about 70 miles from Cameron, Louisiana. Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said the order was in preparation for the worst-case scenario. Laura was a fast-moving storm, and could have made a last-minute westward turn that could have devastated the region.
“Had the track that was forecast two days ago been correct, then our county would be covered in storm surge and we would have much more wind damage to homes,” Branick said.
Branick told Texas Standard that about 60% of county residents evacuated.
Though the hurricane did not make landfall in Jefferson County, it still hit the area with winds of 89 mph near the coast and about 60 mph in Beaumont. About 20 miles from Beaumont, winds whipped at about 140 mph, Branick said. There doesn’t appear to have been significant rain damage or flooding, but about 40,000 people in Jefferson County are without power, according to local reports.
Laura was a strong storm, Branick said, but compared to Tropical Storm Imelda in 2019 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017, it was a “cakewalk.” He said there were fewer calls to Jefferson County’s emergency operation center overnight compared to during Hurricane Harvey, when the county “received thousands of calls.”
Branick lifted the mandatory evacuation order on Thursday at 10 a.m.