Hurricane Delta adds insult to injury in storm-ravaged Louisiana
The day after Hurricane Delta blew through besieged southern Louisiana, residents started the routine again: dodging overturned cars on the roads, trudging through knee-deep water to flooded homes with ruined floors and no power and pledging to rebuild.
Delta made landfall Friday evening near the coastal town of Creole with top winds of 100 mph. It then moved over Lake Charles, where Hurricane Laura had damaged nearly every home and building in late August. No deaths had been reported as of Saturday afternoon, but officials said people were not out of danger.
While Delta was a weaker storm than the Category 4 Laura, it brought significantly more flooding, Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said. He estimated that hundreds of already battered homes across the city took on water. The recovery from the double impact will be long, the mayor said.
“Add Laura and Delta together and it’s just absolutely unprecedented and catastrophic,” Hunter said. “We are very concerned that with everything going in the country right now, that this incident may not be on the radar nationally like it should be.”
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned that although no fatalities had been reported, a hurricane’s wake can be treacherous. Only seven of the 32 deaths in Louisiana and Texas attributed to Laura came the day that hurricane struck. A leading cause of the others was carbon monoxide poisoning from generators used in buildings without electricity.
“Everybody needs to exercise a lot of caution even now, and really, especially now,” Edwards said.
Delta rapidly weakened once it moved onto land, slowing to a tropical depression Saturday morning. Forecasters warned that heavy rain, ocean water from the storm surge and flash floods continued to pose dangers from parts of Texas to Mississippi.
Delta, the 25th named storm of an unprecedented Atlantic hurricane season, was the 10th named storm to hit the mainland U.S. this year, breaking a record set in 1916, Colorado State University researcher Phil Klotzbach said.
Louisiana avoided one feared scenario: that the winds would pick up pieces of debris left by Laura — piles of soggy insulation, moldy mattresses, tree limbs and twisted metal siding — and turn them into projectiles.
Instead, Delta inflicted most of its damage with rain. It dumped more than 15 inches of rain on Lake Charles over two days and more than 10 inches on Baton Rouge. Southwest parishes such as Cameron, Jefferson Davis, Vermilion and Acadia that sustained heavy blows from Laura were hardest hit.
The governor cautioned that it would be difficult to determine the damage Delta caused and what was leftover from the August hurricane. More than 9,400 people were being sheltered by the state Saturday, but only 10% were Delta evacuees, Edwards said. The others were still displaced by Laura.
Edwards said 3,000 Louisiana National Guard soldiers were mobilized to clear roads and distribute meals and tarps, and 10,000 utility workers were working to get power restored to nearly 600,000 customers.
In Lake Charles, Patrick King had to wade through knee-deep water to get to his home on Legion Street after spending the night in Beaumont, Texas.
“I was hoping and praying that it didn’t get into the house, but it did. It rose up close to the furniture,” King said.
“It’s totally frustrating and in fact, it makes you want to give up, but you have to keep on pushing,” he said. “Me and my wife, we are praying people, so we just believe that God let things happen for a reason.”
The damage also stretched inland, with trees stripped of leaves and falling onto streets in the capital, Baton Rouge.
“Rising water with all the rain is the biggest problem,” Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso told KPLC-TV on Saturday. “It’s still dangerous out there, and we’re just going to have to start over from a few weeks ago.”
He said vehicles overturned on Interstate 10, a lesson for anyone thinking about rushing back to the disaster area.
Before making landfall, Delta kicked up large swells and rip currents that closed beaches to the Mexican border. The storm blew down two homes under construction in Galveston, Texas, and toppled the steeple of a church in Jennings, La.
Forecasters said remnants could spawn tornadoes in the Tennessee Valley into Sunday, and flash floods could hit the southern Appalachians.
Lake Charles resident Katie Prejean McGrady said people who live along the Gulf Coast are resilient, but the double punch of the back-to-back storms — on top of the pandemic — has left many in the community reeling.
“I’m taxed out. And I think that’s most people in town,” she said. “There’s a mental exhaustion that sets in and then there’s a fear of ‘Does anybody outside this region care?’”
McGrady and her family had just returned to their home for the first time since evacuating ahead of Hurricane Laura. They arrived back in town last weekend, got a new roof on Monday and had to evacuate again Thursday.
“My husband hadn’t even unpacked his suitcase,” McGrady said. “I had just put away my daughter’s toys.”
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