Hurricane Laura roared into Louisiana early Thursday as one of the strongest storms to strike the Gulf Coast in decades, killing at least one person and destroying homes, before weakening on its continued march northward.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said southwestern portions of the state suffered “extensive” damage overnight and confirmed the fatality during an appearance on MSNBC. He said a 14-year-old girl in Leesville died after the storm knocked a tree onto her home.

“I suspect that won’t be the last, but I pray we don’t have anymore,” Edwards added.

With hours of more extreme weather slated to come, authorities said it remains unclear how much damage Laura has caused so far. Video shared on social media sees the storm taking aim at the Louisiana city of Lake Charles, where torrential rains and fierce winds endured through late morning.

Police also spotted a floating casino that came unmoored and struck a bridge.Flooding caused by Hurricane Laura on August 27, 2020 in Sabine Pass, Texas. Hurricane Laura came ashore bringing rain and high winds to the eastern part of the state.Flooding caused by Hurricane Laura on August 27, 2020 in Sabine Pass, Texas. Hurricane Laura came ashore bringing rain and high winds to the eastern part of the state – ERIC THAYER/Getty Images

Hurricane Laura, drawing energy from a warm Gulf of Mexico, intensified rapidly into a fierce Category 4 storm as it bore down on the U.S. Wednesday before barreling ashore around 1 a.m. near Cameron — a small community of about 400 people near the Texas-Louisiana line.

With winds 150 mph strong, Laura swept through the region before weakening to a Category 2 storm with sustained gusts of 100 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center’s latest update. The storm is tied for the strongest to hit the state in decades— an 1856 hurricane also had winds of 150 mph when it first touched down in Louisiana.

Hurricane Laura is also the most powerful to strike the United States in 2020 so far.

“Unsurvivable storm surge with large and destructive waves will cause catastrophic damage,” forecasters said, warning that the surge could reach 15-20 feet in Port Arthur, Tex., and a stretch of Louisiana including Lake Charles.

“This surge could penetrate up to 40 miles inland from the immediate coastline, and flood waters will not fully recede for several days,” the hurricane center added.

Nearly 470,000 homes and businesses were without power across Louisiana and Texas

Edwards has already said he expects part of his state to become completely submerged. Earlier this week, he activated the Louisiana’s National Guard, which has been shuttling residents between homes and shelters in yellow school buses in recent days.

Authorities in both states previously urged residents to evacuate. Some 500,000 left their homes ahead of the storm, marking the widest-scale evacuation since the coronavirus pandemic struck the United States.

Not everyone has left their homes amid the storm though, prompting even fiercer warnings from officials, who now fear the worst for those who have remained.

An estimated 1.5 million are currently under evacuations orders across the coastal regions of Texas and Louisiana.

“Those choosing to stay and face this very dangerous storm must understand that rescue efforts cannot and will not begin until after storm and surge has passed and it is safe to do so,” the Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Thursday.

“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.”

Mayor Thurman Bartie of Port Arthur, Texas, echoed the sentiments.

“Know that it’s just you and God,” he told residents who stayed behind.

Forecasters have warned the storm could dump more than 18 inches of rain and issued tornado warnings for several regions as Hurricane Laura pushed further inland.

The National Hurricane Center said Laura’s eye is expected to move over Arkansas early in the evening, the mid-Mississippi Valley on Friday and the mid-Atlantic states by Saturday. Experts in the latest updates said “rapid weakening is forecast” and that the hurricane should downgrade to a tropical storm by late Thursday.