Our award-winning reporting has moved

Context provides news and analysis on three of the world’s most critical issues:

climate change, the impact of technology on society, and inclusive economies.

Delta leaves soggy mess in already storm-battered Louisiana

by Reuters
Saturday, 10 October 2020 19:32 GMT

(Adds details, comments from governor, resident)

By Stephanie Kelly

LAKE CHARLES, La., Oct 10 (Reuters) - Coastal Louisianans on Saturday surveyed the damage left by the wind and water that Hurricane Delta raked across their already storm-battered homes even as it weakened quickly after coming ashore and moved rapidly toward the northeast.

Hundreds of thousands of residents were left without power after Delta made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 100 miles per hour (161 kph) on Friday near the town of Creole.

By midday on Saturday, however, Delta had moved on to western Mississippi where it weakened to a tropical depression with winds of less than 39 miles per hour (63 kph), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. But the storm continued bringing heavy rains to region, it said.

The storm brought widespread flooding of streets and riverbanks, mostly in southwestern Louisiana, after closely tracking the path of destruction left by more powerful Hurricane Laura, which came ashore in late August with 150-mph (241-kph) winds.

"Even if it wasn't quite as powerful as Hurricane Laura, it was much bigger," Governor John Bel Edwards said told a briefing in Baton Rouge.

At midday, officials were still assessing the extent of the damage and trying to distinguish the damage from Delta from the destruction left by Laura, Edwards said. Some 3,000 National Guard troops were called up to distribute relief supplies, clear roads, maintain security and conduct search and rescue operations, he said.

While no deaths have been linked to Delta so far, Edwards noted that storm-related fatalities often occur in accidents, such as falls, during cleanup operations or from carbon monoxide poisoning because of improperly positioned home generators.

"Everybody needs to exercise a lot of caution even now, and really, especially now," he said.

About 600,000 of the state's electric customers, 25% of the total, were without power at midday, Edwards said. But restoration was progressing faster than it did after Laura because Delta's winds were less damaging to the infrastructure, he said.

Laura's winds damaged tens of thousands of homes, leaving roofs across the region dotted with protective blue tarpaulins and more than 6,000 people living temporarily in hotels.

Delta spared many of the rooftop tarps that were still up, but it flooded some streets and littered others with downed trees and branches street.

"Laura was much worse," said Lake Charles resident Matthew Williams, 49. "This was more rain than wind."

Williams, who had just gotten his power back about a week and a half ago after the outage left by Laura, said he rode out the storm at his home which escaped damage in both storms.

With the sun shining brightly, Frederick Hannie, 35, surveyed the water damage to his gym, CrossFit Lake Charles, which had already sustained wind and roof damage from Laura.

Between two hurricanes and a pandemic, Hannie said, "it definitely takes a little financial gymnastics" to run a business this year.

As Delta made its way over the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, energy companies cut back U.S. oil production by about 92%, or 1.7 million barrels per day, the most since 2005, when Hurricane Katrina destroyed more than 100 offshore platforms and hobbled output for months.

While the storm was expected to continue weakening, it was forecast to bring rain though Tennessee, Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley through early next week.

Delta was the 10th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season to make a U.S. landfall this year, eclipsing a record dating to 1916. (Reporting by Stephanie Kelly in Lake Charles. Writing and additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York. Editing by Marguerita Choy)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.