Louisiana told to brace for ‘sad reality’ of Hurricane Delta

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Oct 08, 2020 10:36 AM

MORGAN CITY, La. (AP) — Louisiana braced for a new hurricane less than two months after one devastated a southern swath of the state, with the governor warning residents that Hurricane Delta could turn debris from the earlier storm into missiles and that Thursday was their last chance to prepare for the next potential hit.

Forecasters warned that Hurricane Delta could blow ashore Friday with winds of up to 105 mph (169 kph) and a storm surge of up to 11 feet (3.4 meters). They placed most of Louisiana within Delta’s path, including the southwest area of the state around Lake Charles, where Category 4 Hurricane Laura ripped houses from their foundations, peeled off roofs and tore trailers in half.

Lake Charles has been under a mandatory evacuation order since Wednesday night, and city officials worked to get people without transportation out of harm’s way. Mayor Nic Hunter warily watched Delta’s projected path as it moved steadily nearer to the spot where Hurricane Laura made landfall.

“When it first developed in my mind, I said, ‘No way, no way. There’s no way that this is going to hit us,’” Hunter said in an interview Thursday. “And then as it got closer, it just became a sad reality that this was going to happen.”

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards reached out to residents ahead of Delta’s expected arrival, saying in text messages and a 30-second robocall they should “prepare now and have your emergency plans in place.” Edwards said President Donald Trump approved his request to declare a federal emergency, which frees up federal resources.

This is the sixth time in the Atlantic hurricane season that people in Louisiana have been forced to get ready for an approaching hurricane. Nearly six weeks after Hurricane Laura, 5,600 people remain in New Orleans hotels because their homes are too damaged to occupy. Trees, roofs and other debris left in Laura’s wake still sit by roadsides waiting for pickup.

“All that debris could become missiles in really strong wind,” Edwards said Wednesday. Edwards also worried about the “sheer anxiety” the storm could cause already traumatized residents.

Weary residents lamented another round of evacuations and hurricane preparations amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“People of Lake Charles and in Cameron Parish have already suffered enough, and then here comes this one,” Desi Milligan, who owns an RV park in Cameron, La. that was heavily damaged during Hurricane Laura. “Especially the elderly in their homes with no electricity, I’m just praying for them. If it were to hit them again, I can’t even imagine.”

The National Hurricane Center said Thursday that Hurricane Delta continued to churn toward the Louisiana coast, where it is expected to make landfall Friday evening. The Category 2 storm was moving northwest at 14 mph (22 kph).

A hurricane warning was in effect from High Island, Texas to Morgan City, Louisiana.

In neighboring Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves also declared a state of emergency. The Southern part of Mississippi could see heavy rain and flash flooding.

Hurricane Delta is the 25th named storm of the Atlantic’s unprecedented hurricane season. Delta hit Mexico as a Category 2 hurricane just south of the resort city of Cancun early Wednesday with high winds and heavy rain, cutting power to more than 260,000 customers and forcing tourists into storm shelters. No deaths or injuries were reported.

“This has to be the worst year that I have experienced,” said Andrius Vitto, 42, a food truck owner from Gramercy, La. who helped feed hungry evacuees after Laura. After learning this week that his native New Iberia, just to the east of Laura’s worst devastation, was in Hurricane Delta’s sights, “the hair rolled up on my arms,” he said. “To see all this happening in one year — you know with the wildfires, with the hurricanes, the rain, all the other stuff in the news — COVID — it’s mind-boggling.”

Along with getting hit by Hurricane Laura and escaping Hurricane Sally, Louisiana saw heavy flooding June 7 from Tropical Storm Cristobal. Tropical Storm Beta prompted tropical storm warnings in mid-September as it slowly crawled up the northeast Texas coast.

Tropical Storm Marco looked like it might deliver the first half of a hurricane double-blow with Laura, but nearly dissipated before hitting the state near the mouth of the Mississippi River on Aug. 24.

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This story has been edited to correct the spelling of Gramercy.

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Santana reported from New Orleans. Gerald Herbert in Theriot, Louisiana; Kevin McGill in New Orleans; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Leah Willingham in Jackson, Mississippi; and Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.