Hurricane Delta Inflicts New Misery On Storm-Weary Louisiana

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LAKE CHARLES, La. — Hurricane Delta crashed onshore Friday in southwestern Louisiana as a Category 2 storm, ripping tarps from already damaged roofs and slinging debris piled by roads along a path of destruction inflicted by Hurricane Laura only six weeks earlier.

The center of the hurricane made landfall about 6 p.m. near the town of Creole — a distance of only about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from where Laura struck in August.

Delta hit with top winds of 100 mph (155 kph) but rapidly grew weaker. Within an hour hitting land, the National Hurricane Center downgraded it to a Category 1 storm with 85 mph (140 km/h) winds.

Still, forecasters warned Delta was pounding the coast with life-threatening storm surge that could reach up to 11 feet (3.4 meters). Flash flood warnings were posted for much of southwest Louisiana and parts of neighboring Texas.

In the city of Lake Charles, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) inland from where Delta made landfall, winds at tarp-covered roofs of buildings that Hurricane Laura battered when it barreled through in late August and killed at least 27 people in the state.

Ernest Jack lay in bed trying to sleep as water leaked through the ceiling of his Lake Charles home while Delta marched inland Friday night. He said the tarp he’d used to cover his damaged roof after Laura hadn’t blown off and his windows were covered to protect against flying debris.

“It’s raining real hard; it’s flooding; the wind is strong,” Jack said. “I’m OK. I’m not worried about nothing, just praying that everything goes well.”

Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said the latest storm was tearing tarps off homes across the city — where he estimated 95% buildings suffered damage from Laura. Piles of moldy mattresses, sawed-up trees and other leftover debris lined the city’s largely vacant streets when Delta arrived. Hunter said some of that debris was being blown around and floating in streets.

“I’m in a building right now with a tarp on it and just the sound of the tarp flapping on the building sounds like someone pounding with a sledgehammer on top of the building,“ Hunter said. ”It’s pretty intense.”

In the town of Lake Arthur, the wind was so strong it was pulling shingles off L’Banca Albergo Hotel, an eight-room boutique hotel in what used to be a bank.

“I probably don’t have a shingle left on the top of this hotel,” said owner Roberta Palermo, as the winds gusted outside.

Palmero said the electricity was out and across the street she could see pieces of metal coming off the roof of a 100-year-old building. Unsecured trash cans were flying around the streets.

One of her guests was Johnny Weaver, a meteorology student who traveled to Louisiana from Tampa to study the storm.

“There is a lot of power lines down all over the place, there’s ... really deep water in certain spots,” Weaver said, speaking from the hotel’s front porch. He had been out in the weather with his friends earlier and the friend’s car was stranded in the water.

Delta’s damaging effects were felt as far west as Galveston, Texas, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from where the storm struck Louisiana. Two homes under construction in Galveston were toppled by winds, as were some trees and signs in the area. Beach dunes flattened by earlier storms allowed storm surge to reach beneath some of Galveston’s raised beach houses.

Schools and colleges canceled classes Friday in the coastal Texas counties east of Galveston Bay. Wind gusts approaching 90 mph (145 kph) were recorded at Jack Brooks Regional Airport near Beaumont, about 55 miles (88 kilometers) west of landfall. (edited)

Power outages in Louisiana and neighboring Texas soared past 330,000 homes and businesses Friday shortly after the storm came ashore, according to the tracking website PowerOutage.us.

Delta was the 25th named storm of an unprecedented Atlantic hurricane season and became the first Greek-alphabet-named hurricane to hit the continental U.S. As the 10th named storm to hit the continental U.S. this year, it also snapped a century-old record set in 1916, according to Colorado State University researcher Phil Klotzbach.

As the fourth hurricane or tropical storm to hit Louisiana in a year, Delta also tied a 2002 record, Klotzbach said.

Delta, the latest in a recent flurry of rapidly intensifying Atlantic hurricanes that scientists largely blame on global warming, appeared destined to set records at landfall.

Concern wasn’t limited to the Lake Charles and Cameron Parish areas, where Laura came ashore in late August. Further east, in Acadiana region towns like New Iberia and Abbeville, people took the storm seriously.

“You can always get another house, another car, but not another life,” said Hilton Stroder as he and his wife, Terry, boarded up their Abbeville home Thursday night with plans to head to their son’s house further east.

This week marked the sixth time of the current season that Louisiana has been threatened by tropical storms or hurricanes. One, Tropical Storm Marco, fizzled as it hit the southeast Louisiana tip, and others veered elsewhere, but Tropical Storm Cristobal caused damage in southeast Louisiana in June.

The hurricane was expected to weaken rapidly over land. Forecasters predicted Delta would be downgraded to a tropical storm overnight. The storm’s projected path showed it moving into northern Mississippi on Saturday and then into the Tennessee Valley as a tropical depression.

By REBECCA SANTANA and STACEY PLAISANCE - Oct 9. 2020 - 9:26 PM ET

AP

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Plaisance reported from New Iberia, Louisiana. Associated Press contributors include Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Gerald Herbert in Lake Charles, Louisiana; Kevin McGill in New Orleans; Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland; Russ Bynum in Savannah, Georgia; and Leah Willingham in Jackson, Mississippi.

 

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