Hurricane Delta made landfall on Friday evening around 23:00 GMT near the town of Creole on Louisiana’s southwestern coast, the United States National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported, hours after many local residents fled their homes ahead of the incoming storm.
Forecasters and the NHC said Hurricane Delta weakened before landfall and is now a strong Category 2 storm battering the US Gulf Coast with sustained winds of 123km/h (77mph) and gusts of up to 154km/h (96mph) on the Gulf Coast.
Residents in the area braced themselves earlier in the day as rain bands – long stretches 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.
The hurricane’s northern eye was passing over Jennings, Louisiana at around 23:30 GMT on Friday, according to a video from the US-based Weather Channel.
— The Weather Channel (@weatherchannel) October 9, 2020
Blue-tarped roofs still stretched as far as the eye could see on Friday in the town of Lake Charles, which lies about 57 kilometres (36 miles) to the west of Jennings.
There, streets were still lined with sawed-up trees, moldy 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.
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.”
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.
We just got lights back on like two weeks ago and then evacuating again? It's extremely hard
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.
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.
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.