Southwest Louisiana took a beating overnight as Category 4 Hurricane Laura made landfall there with winds up to 150 miles per hour.
The storm continued to plague the region Thursday morning, downgrading to a Category 2 hurricane and bringing fierce winds and immense storm surge. Imagery from Lake Charles, Louisiana, showed gutted skyscrapers, decimated roofs, a twisted metal communications tower, and an overturned RV.
In Texas and Louisiana, more than 500,000 businesses and homes are without electricity. Meteorologists expect the system to spawn tornadoes and say it may cause flooding as far away as Arkansas and in the valleys of Tennessee and Ohio. Storm surge may reach 30 miles inland. Experts also said it should decrease in intensity Thursday enough to be downgraded to a tropical storm. Heavy rains are expected in Appalachian states on Friday and Saturday.
In Cameron Parish, Louisiana, roughly 150 of the area's 6,500 residents ignored a mandatory evacuation order, despite warnings of "unsurvivable" flood waters as high as 15 feet. Some people also decided to ride out the storm in Calcasieu Parish, which includes Lake Charles, and are now asking for rescue.
"There are some people still in town and people are calling ... but there ain't no way to get to them," Tony Guillory, who runs the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, told the Associated Press on Thursday.
He added that although he hopes rescue missions can take place Thursday afternoon, flooding, down electrical wires, and other obstacles may make rescues impossible.
Around 6:30 Thursday morning, a man holed up in a casino on Lake Charles reported that water was pouring into the lowest level of the parking garage, an area that had been dry just an hour before. The new inundation of water was reportedly caused by continuing westerly winds that were pushing water from nearby bodies of water into downtown.
Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser told Good Morning America on Thursday that survival chances are slim for anyone still on the Louisiana coastline.
"We know anyone that stayed that close to the coast, we've got to pray for them," he said, "because looking at the storm surge, there would be little chance of survival."