Update (August 27): The subheading of this story has been updated to reflect the strength of the storm and when it made landfall.
As of this morning (August 26), the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, a field station on the Gulf Coast, was already flooded with two feet of water. “We anticipate several feet more” as Hurricane Laura heads toward Louisiana this evening, says the facility’s director, Craig McClain, in an email to The Scientist.
This morning, the National Hurricane Center predicted the storm, currently a category 3, will become “an extremely dangerous category 4 hurricane.”
The staff at Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) have been working to button up the labs since last week to guard against both Tropical Storm Marco, which brought heavy rains to the Gulf Coast this week, and Laura, close on its heels. All of the center’s operations are shut down for the rest of the week.
McClain stresses that LUMCON was built to handle hurricanes, with elevated buildings and detailed safety plans—not to mention experience with past storms. “During Barry, we received almost 6 feet of water,” McClain says of the 2019 storm that dumped up to 23 inches of rain in Louisiana. “We began cleanup on Monday, including several inches of deposited mud, and by Wednesday morning were operational again.”
Numerous other campuses have closed in anticipation of the hurricane. Texas A&M University Galveston Campus issued a mandatory evacuation on Tuesday and bussed students to College Station, while the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston likewise closed for nonessential duties. According to an alert on its website yesterday, research labs are closed and specimens are being moved or secured. Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, is also under evacuation orders and the campus is shuttered for the week.
The University of Louisiana Lafayette closed campus and asked residents to shelter in place while Louisiana State University Shreveport is closing campus on Thursday as the hurricane is expected to move northward through the state. The University of Houston moved all classes online for the week and is limiting access to the campus today and tomorrow.