Port Arthur mayor issues evacuation order before Laura hits

Jefferson County residents under mandatory evacuation order

PORT ARTHUR, Texas – Port Arthur's mayor on Monday issued a mandatory evacuation order for the Southeast Texas city before Tropical Storm Laura — which forecasters say could strengthen to a Category 3 hurricane — makes landfall.

Laura was expected to make landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border Wednesday night or early Thursday morning. Port Arthur is about 30 miles (about 50 kilometers) from the Louisiana border.

Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie said he will ask the city's more than 54,000 residents to evacuate their homes starting 6 a.m. Tuesday, unless the current forecast changes and pushes Laura’s landfall farther east.

“If you decide to stay, you’re staying on your own," Bartie said.

Indigent individuals unable to leave on their own will be transported by bus to Walker County, which is north of Houston, Bartie said.

Port Arthur ISD school buses were moving residents from the city’s civic center to a shelter in Huntsville.

“Just getting everything back. Just getting it back right and now you can’t predict what’s going on,” said Phyllis Skillman.

Stephanie Evans and her family didn’t take a chance.

“I didn’t have transportation, but I thank God that we have means of getting out of here,” said Evans.

Officials in Houston asked residents to prepare supplies in case they need to shelter at home without power for a few days or if they needed to evacuate their homes if they live along the Gulf Coast. Shelters were being prepared that followed precautions designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Forecasters have said Laura could change course and make landfall near Houston.

We are battle tested. We are ready to deal with this situation as well,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday.

Preparations in Houston came one day before the three-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, which dumped up to 50 inches (1.3 meters) of rain in the Houston area, flooding more than 150,000 homes.

Various state resources to respond to severe weather have been placed on standby or positioned across Texas, including helicopters, water rescue teams and members of the Texas Army National Guard.

KPRC 2′s Cathy Hernandez contributed to this report.