Hurricane Laura made landfall at 1 a.m. ET Thursday with extreme winds and an expected “catastrophic” storm surge in parts of Texas and Louisiana, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The center said Laura is an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph — just 7 mph short of Category 5 classification. That would make Laura the fourth Category 4 storm to strike Louisiana in modern history.

Most forecasts initially predicted Laura’s intensity would reach a Category 2 or 3 storm. But the hurricane ramped up quickly since the start of the week, intensifying by 65 miles per hour in one 24-hour period.

Laura is the 10th hurricane to make landfall in the continental U.S. with winds of 150 miles per hour or higher since modern record keeping began in 1851. Most recently, Hurricane Michael in 2018 had an intensity of 160 miles per hour when it made landfall in Florida.

The storm is forecast to move inland overnight Wednesday and farther into northwestern Louisiana on Thursday. From there, it will head across Arkansas and over the mid-Mississippi Valley on Friday.

The National Hurricane Center said storm surge — the rise in seawater caused by a storm — and tropical storm-force winds will arrive well in advance of the storm’s center and that “all preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion in the next few hours.”

It is also warning of an “unsurvivable” storm surge with massive waves that will cause significant damage from Sea Rim State Park in Texas to Intracoastal City, La. The surge could affect areas up to 40 miles inland and dump floodwaters to the area that may not recede for days.

Sporadic tornadoes are also expected on Wednesday night over Louisiana, far southeast Texas and southwestern Mississippi.

As of early Wednesday evening, water levels are rising from Galveston Bay, Texas, to Mobile Bay, Alabama.

SOURCE: NPR .