Hurricane Laura made landfall as a Category 4 storm in Cameron, La., early Thursday morning.
The storm strengthened overnight from a Category 3 with reported sustained winds of 150 mph, just 7 mph shy of becoming a Category 5. Hurricane Katrina was a Category 3 storm when it made landfall in 2005.
An update from the service posted later Thursday morning indicated that "catastrophic" storm surge levels were still present in parts of the state as well as high winds and flooding. Laura was downgraded to a Category 2 storm shortly after making landfall, and was expected to further weaken on Thursday.
"Much of our state is in the path of #HurricaneLaura tonight. Whether you evacuated or are at home, you need to stay off the roads. This is a time for all of us to be praying for the best, while we're prepared for the worst. God bless you and your families. Be safe tonight. #Laura," said the state's governor, John Bel Edwards (D), in a tweet while noting in other messages that several interstate highways in Louisiana had been shut down ahead of Laura's landfall.
"There will be parts of Lake Charles underwater that no living human being has ever seen before," he added on local radio, according to CNN. "We are marshaling all of our people and assets to go in ... and start a very robust search and rescue effort."
At least 20 million Texans and Louisianans are believed to be in the storm’s path, according to CBS News, and more than half a million people had been ordered to evacuate as of Wednesday evening. More than a quarter of a million were without power in the region as of Thursday morning, according to an outage tracking site.
As many as 150 people in Cameron Parish ignored the state's evacuation orders, according to local officials, and were unreachable as of Thursday morning, The Associated Press reported.
“It’s a very sad situation,” said the parish's assistant director of emergency preparedness, Ashley Buller. “We did everything we could to encourage them to leave.”
Government officials have warned the storm surge could reach 20 feet between Lake Charles, La. and Houston. The National Hurricane Center has warned the storm could be “unsurvivable” in parts of the two states.
"Please evacuate, and if you choose to stay and we can't get to you, write your name, address, social security number and next of kin and put it a Ziploc bag in your pocket. Praying that it does not come to this," the Vermilion Parish Sheriff's Office warned, according to CNN.