The “catastrophic” Category 4 hurricane, Laura struck the coast of Louisiana on Thursday, with extreme winds causing flash floods in the US state, the country’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
The hurricane is expected to cause an “unsurvivable” storm surge as it moves inland with wind speeds of up to 240 km/h, the BBC quoted the NHC as saying in its latest update.
If it maintains those speeds it would be one of the strongest storms to ever hit the US Gulf Coast.
Laura made landfall shortly after midnight near the district of Cameron in Louisiana.
The NHC warned any residents remaining in or near the path of the “catastrophic” storm to “take action now to protect your life… in a reinforced interior room away from windows”.
“Get under a table or other piece of sturdy furniture,” the NHC said, adding: “Use mattresses, blankets or pillows to cover your head and body.”
Over 300,000 homes in Louisiana reportedly lost power in the early hours on Thursday, according to the US tracking site PowerOutage.
In the neighbouring state of Texas, more than 75,000 homes suffered power cuts.
Laura, which strengthened rapidly from category three to category four gaining 70 per cent in power in just 24 hours, is now close to becoming a category five storm, which would mean maximum sustained winds of 254 km/h, reports the BBC.
Television footage showed heavy rain and strong winds lashing the coastal city of Lake Charles in south-west Louisiana, and damage to some buildings has already been reported.
Laura and another storm, Marco, earlier swept across the Caribbean, killing 24 people.
Marco struck Louisiana on Monday, bringing strong winds and heavy rain.
Initially it was feared that both storms would hit Louisiana as hurricanes within 48 hours of each other – an unprecedented event – but Marco was downgraded to a tropical storm.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump told those potentially affected by the storm to “listen to local officials” as the storm was “very dangerous and rapidly intensifying”.