Update: Louisiana Residents Flee as Delta Bears Down on U.S. Gulf Coast

By | October 8, 2020

10/09/2020 10:41 AM LAKE CHARLES, La., Oct 9 — The streets in Lake Charles in southwest Louisiana were deserted as a powerful Hurricane Delta approached, threatening to add misery to people struggling to recover from the damage inflicted by a hurricane less than two months ago.

Delta was a Category 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale early Friday, packing winds of 120 miles per hour (325 kph) and already being felt onshore with gusty winds and heavy rains. Rivers were full and local street flooding was reported from the coast to Baton Rouge inland.

“In this community, there are a lot of homes that were damaged and so a lot of people are concerned about staying in that structure again,” Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said in an interview.

Hurricane Laura, which struck the city in late August, “is still very fresh and very raw and I think that had something to do with more people evacuating for Delta,” Hunter said.

Across the state’s southwest, schools and government offices closed, residents boarded windows and moved out of the storm’s path. Officials ordered evacuations in those communities facing the second major hurricane in as many months.

“I know people in Louisiana, especially the southwest, are very strong and very resilient, but they are going to be tested here,” Governor John Bel Edwards said at a Thursday news conference.

Forecast models show Delta weakening slightly but remaining at or near a category 3 hurricane at landfall between the cities of Lake Charles and Lafayette, driving an up to 11-foot (3.3 meter) storm surge on the coast. It could also unleash tornadoes as it moves over land and drop up to 10 inches (25 cm) of rain.

Laura damaged tens of thousands of homes, leaving roofs throughout the region dotted with protective blue tarps, and left more than 6,000 people still living temporarily in hotels.

“They never had time to recover from Laura and now this next storm is hitting them. They never had time to get back on their feet and they didn’t think they could survive the second one,” Cathy Evans, 63, said of her daughter’s family as she helped them move out of their Lake Charles home.

Evans, who traveled to Lake Charles from Texarkana, Arkansas, left with her daughter and family for Texas on Thursday evening as Louisiana was closing its flood control gates.

Cities along the Gulf Coast from Galveston, Texas, to New Orleans are experiencing gusty winds and rain. Louisiana received a federal emergency declaration and Wal-Mart said it was closing many of its stores across the Gulf Coast as a precaution.

Energy companies halted 92%, or nearly 1.7 million barrels per day of offshore oil output, and 62% of natural gas production, data showed. The U.S. Coast Guard closed ports from Beaumont, Texas, to Lake Charles ahead of the storm.

When Delta reaches the northern Gulf Coast, it will be the 10th named storm to make a U.S. landfall this year, eclipsing a record that has stood since 1916.

(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly in Baton Rouge Writing and additional reporting by Gary McWilliams in Houston; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy)

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