Hurricane Laura, which is bound to hit the southeast US late on Wednesday, has been forecast to be a “life-threatening” Category 4 hurricane, unfortunately exceeding American meteorologists’ expectations.

The storm began“rapidly strengthening” early Wednesday according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC). It is expected to produce “catastrophic damage” in affected areas in Texas and Louisiana later in the day.

The hurricane has been predicted to create a “storm surge, extreme winds, and flash flooding.” It could advance up to 30 miles (48 kilometers) inland. More than half a million people were already ordered to evacuate from the coastline cities as the life-threatening storm approaches.

“If you decide to stay, you’re staying on your own,” said Mayor Thurman Bartie of the Texan city of Port Arthur, one of the cities that ordered an evacuation.

Laura was previously estimated to be a Category 3 hurricane, but it has undergone a remarkable intensification. “There are no signs it will stop soon,” the NHC said in a briefing.

On its way to the US, Laura has already caused at least 23 deaths in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

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