BEAUMONT — With Al Green’s "Love and Happiness" blasting out on speakers for the entire Beaumont neighborhood known as the Avenues to enjoy, residents on Wednesday prepared for the imminent arrival of Hurricane Laura.


Neighbors at noon gathered in front of Debb’s Liquor, a business that has been around for 65 years, as brothers Frank and Joe Messina boarded up the windows of their College Street store. As clouds began to roll in with wind gusts, Frank Messina said his place was one of the last to close.


"It looks like it’s coming in now, so we’re going to be closing soon," Messina said. "We’ll reopen depending on the electricity. For Hurricane Rita, it was out for about a week. I think this is going to be a mix between Rita and Harvey, two of the worst that ever hit the Gulf Coast."


Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm raging Wednesday with sustained winds of 150 mph, was expected to pummel the Texas-Louisiana border in the early hours of Thursday morning. National Hurricane Center meteorologists said Laura could produce storm surges as high as 20 feet in southwestern Louisiana.


State emergency officials in Austin, intensely worried about the potentially "unsurvivable" storm surge that could send dangerous waves and water flowing 30 miles inland, joined Gov. Greg Abbott in urging Texans in Laura’s path to evacuate their homes.


Abbott said local officials have expressed alarm at the number of people who have yet to evacuate targeted areas, saying they feared word of Laura’s dangers was not getting out.


"We urge everybody who may be in harm's way to take these few last hours to get out of harm's way," Abbott said from the Alternate State Operations Center at the Doubletree Hotel in Northeast Austin.


Although Texas has deployed 400 buses, 38 aircraft, 82 boats, 202 high-profile vehicles and 60 ambulances to the area, Abbott warned that the timing of the storm’s arrival would mean that rescuers would likely be unavailable from around 7 p.m. Wednesday until 9 a.m. Thursday morning.


As of 7 p.m. Wednesday, Laura was about 120 miles south-southeast of Port Arthur lumbering northwest toward the Texas-Louisiana border at 15 mph.


Laura is a large system, with hurricane-force winds extending up to 60 miles from the eye and tropical storm-force winds radiating more than 200 miles out, according to the National Hurricane Center. Abbott said tropical storm-force winds — classified as 39 to 73 mph — might be felt as far north as Longview.


The center posted a hurricane warning from San Luis Pass on the Texas coast to Intracoastal City, La.


The storm surge warning, which indicates a danger of life-threatening rising water, extends from Freeport, on the Texas coast south of Houston, to the mouth of the Mississippi River.


Abbott said Jefferson County should anticipate a 10- to 15-foot storm surge, while rainfall could produce flash flooding that sends rivers overflowing their banks. Officials are particularly worried about the Sabine River, he said, adding that residents of Orange and Deweyville should prepare for "the high probability of high water."


Across the street from Debb’s Liquor in Beaumont, Arthur Bobenoaux fueled his generator outside of his boarded home Wednesday while chicken and boudin sausage grilled in his driveway.


None of Abbott’s dire warnings seemed to deter the handful in the small community who decided to stay for the storm, as they have in years past. Residents maintain that their area is not historically known to flood.


"We’re prepared to ride out with it," Bobenoaux said. "We have water and a lot of bread and lunch meat and nonperishable items. We didn’t want to deal with backed-up traffic. I think it’s going to be pretty bad, worse or close to Harvey."


H-E-B and other large grocery chains in the area closed Wednesday morning, according to residents. The windows of about half of all business were completely boarded with plywood.


Interstate 10, which runs just west of downtown Beaumont, was mostly deserted by 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, save for the occasional vehicle stopping for gas before heading out of town.


Areas in Orange mirrored Beaumont on Wednesday afternoon with much of the city shut down and people scarce.


In West Orange, Aubrey Trotti frantically packed her SUV with her entire family, which included her 82-year-old grandmother who uses a wheelchair.


Trotti said she persuaded her family to leave town Wednesday after realizing they were not prepared for the hurricane.


Her 11-year-old son Dylan sat on an ice chest full of food as his parents packed plastic bags full of clothes and other necessities before they bid other family members farewell.