Home featured Hurricane Delta Brings Floods and Destruction to an Already Battered Louisiana

Hurricane Delta Brings Floods and Destruction to an Already Battered Louisiana

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Hurricane Delta tore across Louisiana late Friday, leaving a trail of destruction as it raked over the state with shredding winds and pounding rainfall, stirring flash floods and pummeling areas that had already been hobbled by earlier storms.

Residents and officials were just beginning on Saturday morning to assess the extent of the damage wrought by the storm, which retreaded ground that had been battered in late August by Hurricane Laura. Delta made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane before rapidly weakening.

Still, Delta hurled debris still piled up after Laura, and toppled utility poles and power lines that had just been restored.

“People are feeling a little despondent,” Nic Hunter, the mayor of Lake Charles, said in an interview on Saturday morning. “To go through what we went through six weeks ago, and have another punch in the gut like we received last night, is just unimaginable.”

The storm made landfall less than 20 miles east of where Laura struck, yet Delta’s path deviated just enough from Laura’s to strike parts of Louisiana that had experienced more of a glancing blow in the earlier storm.

ImageA damaged and displaced fishing camp in Lake Arthur, La., on Saturday.
Credit…Emily Kask for The New York Times

A span of the state reaching from Lake Charles to Lafayette received a direct hit from Delta, turning roadways into rapids and knocking trees down onto the roofs of homes and into tangles of utility lines.

In some parts of the state, meteorologists said the storm dumped as much as 15 inches of rain. Nearly 600,000 customers in Louisiana were without power on Saturday morning, with thousands more reported in Texas and Mississippi. In Lake Charles, the flooding had been more severe than that from Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm that was largely wind-driven.

“It just shows you that every storm has its own DNA,” Mr. Hunter said.

On Saturday, many homes were inundated with water, drainage laterals were overflowing and debris was scattered across the city. Multitudes of blue tarps that had been covering homes damaged from Laura were blown off on Friday, Mr. Hunter said. But residents were already outside cleaning up. “We get to work,” the mayor said.

A television station in Lafayette asked its viewers to send in their accounts of Delta’s toll. Many said they could hear transformers popping through the night and others sent in videos of carports wavering in the wind. Sheds had been picked up and tossed, they said, and bricks had been shorn from a building in downtown Lafayette.

“I’m afraid for daylight to see the damage out there,” one woman who rode out the storm in her home in Rayne, a small town outside Lafayette, wrote in a post on Saturday on the Facebook page of KATC-TV. “We have a tree blocking our back door and we don’t even have trees on our property.”

Credit…William Widmer for The New York Times

Delta, the 10th named storm to make landfall in the United States this year, weakened to a tropical depression as it crossed over Louisiana and into Mississippi. Still, meteorologists warned of the continued threat of flash floods and tornadoes, and the storm brought heavy rain and lashing winds across a span reaching from the East Texas coast to as far east as Baton Rouge.

Delta made landfall on Friday evening near Creole, La., an unincorporated community in Cameron Parish that had been virtually wiped out by Hurricane Laura. The intersection that had constituted downtown, with a gas station, restaurant and grocery store, had been reduced to scattered rubble for Delta to hurl as projectiles.

Delta had managed to deliver a staggering blow even before making landfall, as residents across the region were already exasperated and exhausted by recurring storms that have wrought devastation and tested the resolve of many to rebuild once again.

“People aren’t hanging around anymore,” said Richard Zuschlag, the chief executive and chairman of Acadian Ambulance, which is based in Lafayette and serves much of the Gulf Coast region.

The area had been clawing its way back from Hurricane Laura, steadily restoring power to the thousands of customers who went weeks without service and clearing fallen trees, debris and mangled utility poles.

In Cameron Parish, the small community hospital that had been rebuilt after Hurricane Rita, was destroyed by Laura and many houses were rendered as piles of splintered wood. In Lake Charles, aerial photographs before Delta barreled through captured blotches of blue — the tarpaulins covering homes and businesses whose roofs had been shaved off by Hurricane Laura’s winds.

Credit…Dan Anderson/EPA, via Shutterstock

Laura uprooted thousands of families, many of whom were still living this week in hotels that had been transformed into makeshift shelters in recent weeks. Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said there were more than 9,500 Louisianians in shelters as of Friday afternoon, most of them evacuees from the previous storm.

With this hurricane, much like Laura, Louisiana is being forced to find emergency shelter for large numbers of displaced people while taking into account the risk of spreading the Covid-19 virus. More than 800 evacuees were being housed because of Delta, many of them in a mega-shelter in the north Louisiana city of Alexandria. In Lafayette, emergency officials told people who were looking for hotel rooms to ride out the storm to keep moving, as there were no vacancies in the city.

The widespread power outages after Delta have also rekindled fears of one of the worst perils after Hurricane Laura, as many of the deaths associated with that storm were from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by the fumes from generators.

In Lafayette, officials urged residents to stay safe — cautioning them to run generators at least several yards away from their homes and certainly not inside of them, and to be careful as they ventured outside after the storm.

“We are a strong community, a tight community, a community that cares for each other,” said Joshua S. Guillory, the mayor-president of Lafayette. “The best thing we can do right now is take care of our homes and our neighbors so we as a community can adequately respond to the storm.”

Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio contributed reporting from New York.

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