Tracking the Tropics: Delta adds insult to injury in hurricane-ravaged Louisiana

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LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — Ripping tarps off damaged roofs and scattering massive piles of storm debris in the wind and water, Hurricane Delta inflicted fresh damage in Louisiana along the same path of destruction 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 on Saturday. Flash floods remained a risk from parts of Texas to Mississippi, where forecasters said up to 10 inches of rain could fall by day’s end.

Delta made landfall Friday evening near the town of Creole, a few miles east of where Laura hit in August, and then moved directly over Lake Charles, a waterfront city where nearly every home was already damaged.

Debris piles went airborne as Delta blew through, and some of the wreckage floated around in the storm surge. The damage reached far inland, with trees shorn of leaves and falling onto streets in Louisiana’s capital of Baton Rouge.

Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said tarps flew off homes across the city, and in the building where he rode out the storm, a tarp flapping sounded “like someone pounding with a sledgehammer.”

The wind tore at the roof of L’Banca Albergo, an eight-room boutique hotel in Lake Arthur. “I probably don’t have a shingle left on the top of this hotel,” owner Roberta Palermo said as the winds howled outside.

Palermo said pieces of metal were coming off the roof of a 100-year-old building across the street, and trash cans were flying around. Power lines were down and the water rose to strand parked cars, her guest Johnny Weaver said.

About 740,000 customers lost power in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi, according to the tracking website PowerOutage.us.

“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.

The governor’s office said it had no reports of deaths early Saturday, but 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 places without electricity. Others died in accidents while cleaning up.

Delta has swirled over a wide swath of the United States, kicking up large swells and rip currents that closed beaches down to the Mexican border. Two homes under construction were blown down in Galveston, Texas. The steeple of the Mount Triumph Baptist Church was toppled in Jennings, Louisiana. A tree fell on the vehicle of Jackson-based WLBT-TV with its news crew inside. No one was injured.

By 7 a.m. local time, Delta was centered near the Louisiana-Mississippi state line and barely a tropical storm. Forecasters said remnants could spawn tornadoes in Tennessee Valley into Sunday, and flash floods could hit the southern Appalachians.

Delta, the 25th named storm of an unprecedented Atlantic hurricane season, is the first Greek-alphabet-named hurricane to hit the continental U.S., and the 10th named storm to hit the mainland U.S. this year, breaking a record set in 1916, said Colorado State University researcher Phil Klotzbach. It was Louisiana’s fourth named storm in 2020, after Cristobal, Laura and Marco.

Some were determined to keep riding out these storms.

Jeanne-Marie Gove could hear debris hitting her door in Lafayette, and watched the roof from a trailer behind her apartment fly 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. He worried about the flooding, and the aftermath.

“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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