Delta adds insult to injury in hurricane-ravaged Louisiana

LAFAYETTE, La. — Ripping tarps from damaged roofs and scattering massive piles of storm debris in the wind and water, Hurricane Delta inflicted a new round of destruction in Louisiana communities along a path Hurricane Laura carved just six weeks earlier.

Delta hit as a Category 2 hurricane with top winds of 100 mph (155 kph) before rapidly weakening over land. It was barely a tropical storm Saturday morning, with top winds of 40 mph (65 kph), but heavy rain, ocean water from the storm surge and flash floods continued to pose dangers from parts of Texas to Mississippi, where up to 10 inches of rain was predicted in places by day’s end.

Delta made landfall Friday evening near the coastal town of Creole — only 15 miles (24 kilometres) or so from where Laura struck land in August, killing 27 people in Louisiana.

It then moved directly over Lake Charles, a waterfront city about 30 miles (50 kilometres) inland where the earlier hurricane damaged nearly every home and building, and where mouldy mattresses, sawed-up trees and other debris still lined the streets.

Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter spoke with The Associated Press as he rode out Delta’s arrival downtown. He said tarps were flying off homes across the city, and piles of wreckage were being blown around, some of it floating in the surge of ocean water.

“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 Lake Arthur, Delta’s winds peeled shingles off the roof of L’Banca Albergo, 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,” owner Roberta Palermo said as the winds gusted outside.

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

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

About 740,000 homes and businesses were without power in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi early Saturday, according to the tracking website PowerOutage.us.

In Lafayette, about 75 miles (120 kilometres) east of Lake Charles, drivers cautiously moved through dark intersections before dawn Saturday along a parkway where long stretches were left shrouded without electricity.

“Rising water with all the rain is the biggest problem,” Calcasieu 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 were overturned on Interstate-10 — a harsh lesson for anyone hoping to rush back into the disaster area.

“I just think people need to use some good common sense,” Mancuso said.

No deaths were attributed to Delta as of early Saturday, but a hurricane’s wake can be treacherous. Only seven of the deaths attributed to Laura came the day that hurricane struck. A leading cause of the others was carbon monoxide poisoning from generators used in places without electricity. Others died in accidents while cleaning up.

Delta has swirled over a wide swath of the U.S., with tropical storm force winds reaching 160 miles (260 kilometres) outward. Dangerous gusts were reported at LSU’s Tiger Stadium and at the Adams County airport in Natchez, Mississippi. Winds blew down the steeple at the Mount Triumph Baptist Church in Jennings, Louisiana.

In Galveston, Texas, about 100 miles (160 kilometres) from where the centre made landfall, winds toppled trees, street signs and two homes under construction, and with dunes flattened by earlier storms, the surge reached beneath raised houses. Large swells and rip currents prompted beach closures as far west as the mouth of the Rio Grande.

Delta also downed trees across Mississippi, including one that landed on a Jackson-based WLBT-TV vehicle with a news crew inside. No one was injured.

At 7 a.m. local time, it was centred about 45 miles (70 kilometres) east of Monroe, Louisiana. Forecasters said Delta’s remnants would move into the Tennessee Valley Saturday and into Sunday, possibly spinning off tornadoes and dumping up to 3 inches of rain that could cause flash flooding in the southern Appalachians.

Delta, the 25th named storm of an unprecedented Atlantic hurricane season, made the record books when it struck the Gulf Coast. It was the first Greek-alphabet-named hurricane to hit the continental U.S. And it became the 10th named storm to hit the mainland U.S. this year, breaking a century-old record set in 1916, according to Colorado State University researcher Phil Klotzbach.

Delta was the fourth named storm to strike Louisiana in 2020. Tropical Storm Marco fizzled as it hit the southeast Louisiana tip just three days before Laura struck. And Tropical Storm Cristobal caused damage in southeast Louisiana in June.

Some who rode out Laura hunkered down again with Delta. Jeanne-Marie Gove could hear debris hitting her door in Lafayette as her patio gate banged open and shut. She said the roof from a trailer at the mobile home park behind her apartment was torn off and tossed down the sidewalk.

“The wind gusts are making the glass from our windows bow inward,” Gove tweeted. “It’s pretty scary.”

Hunter said he thought more people evacuated for Delta than Laura, reducing emergency calls during the worst of the storm. Across the disaster area, people could only wait for the waters to recede before getting a full view of the damage.

“I believe that Delta could actually be more of a flooding issue than Laura was from what I’m seeing and what I’m hearing right now in the thick of it,” the mayor said Friday night.

“We really just need people not to forget about us,” Hunter said. “We are going to be in the recovery mode for months and probably years from these two hurricanes. It’s just unprecedented and historic what has happened to us.”

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