The centre of Hurricane Delta is moving northward towards the southwest Louisiana coast, the United States National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Friday, and it is expected to make landfall there by the evening.
The Category 3 hurricane was located about 205 kilometres (130 miles) south-southwest of Cameron, Louisiana, packing maximum sustained winds of 185 kilometres per hour (115 miles per hour), the NHC said.
Residents in the area braced themselves as rain bands – long bands of clouds and thunderstorms – from the approaching hurricane began soaking the same area that was badly battered by deadly Hurricane Laura six weeks ago.
Schools and government offices closed and residents boarded windows and moved out of the storm’s path, as officials ordered evacuations in southwest Louisiana communities.
Blue-tarped roofs still stretched as far as the eye could see on Friday in the town of Lake Charles.
Streets were still lined with sawed-up trees, mouldy mattresses and box springs, ductwork and other wreckage of destroyed or badly damaged buildings, and officials said they feared Delta could turn the small mountains of rubbish into deadly projectiles.
Earnst Jack standing near his home, which was damaged by Hurricane Laura [Gerald Herbert/AP]The approaching storm also had an emotional toll on the area’s residents, who are still recovering from the devastation of the previous hurricane.
“We just got lights back on like two weeks ago and then evacuating again? It’s extremely hard,” said Roslyn Kennedy. She was among a handful of evacuees at the Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles who were waiting to be transported, again, to safer destinations.
“I am worried about the debris that hasn’t been picked up,” said Carla Ardoin of nearby Sulphur. “I think that’s what is going to do a lot of the damage.”
Tenth named storm
Delta appeared destined to set records at landfall.
It is the tenth named storm to hit the continental US this year, according to Colorado State University researcher Phil Klotzbach, and the fourth hurricane or tropical storm to hit Louisiana in a year – tying a 2002 record.
The question was whether Delta would remain at devastating Category 3-strength hurricane, with top winds of 195km/h (120mph) early on Friday, or drop just before landfall to a still extremely dangerous Category 2 storm.
We just got lights back on like two weeks ago and then evacuating again? It’s extremely hard
Roslyn Kennedy, resident of Lake Charles, Louisiana
It marked the sixth time this 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 while Laura demolished much of the state’s southwest on August 27, causing more than 30 deaths.
“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.
Other states on alert
Concern was not limited to the Lake Charles and Cameron Parish areas of Louisiana, where Laura came ashore in late August. Further east, in the state’s Acadiana region, people were also taking 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 on Thursday night with plans to head to their son’s house further east.
On Friday morning, the NHC had a hurricane warning in place for the Gulf Coast extending from High Island, Texas, to Morgan City, Louisiana – located about 391km (243 miles) apart along the Gulf Coast.
Roslyn Kennedy holds one-year-old Malaka Kennedy in a shelter in Lake Charles, Louisiana, ahead of Hurricane Delta [Gerald Herbert/AP]New Orleans, well east of the projected landfall area, was expected to escape the worst effects of Delta, but tropical-storm-force winds were still likely in the city on Friday. Local officials said they were preparing for the possibility of tornadoes.
In Mississippi, to the east of Louisiana, Governor Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency, as did his counterpart Edwards in Louisiana.
Forecasters said southern Mississippi could see heavy rain and flash flooding.