Boarded windows and empty sidewalks made parts of Louisiana’s Acadiana region look like empty movie sets as Hurricane Delta roared ever closer to the U.S. Gulf coast, apparently on track to smash into the same southwestern part of the state where Hurricane Laura blasted ashore six weeks ago.
Forecasters said Delta — the 25th named storm of an unprecedented Atlantic hurricane season — would likely crash ashore Friday evening somewhere on southwest Louisiana’s coast. The question was whether it would remain at a devastating Category 3 strength, with top winds of 195 km/h early Friday, or drop just before landfall to a still extremely dangerous Category 2 storm.
Either way, people in this battered coastal region were taking Delta 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, La., home with plans to head to their son’s house further east.
As Delta churned north at 19 km/h on Friday morning, the National Hurricane Center had a hurricane warning in place for the Gulf coast extending from High Island, Texas, to Morgan City, La.
It marked the sixth time this season that Louisiana has been threatened by tropical storms or hurricanes. One fizzled at the southeast Louisiana tip, and others veered elsewhere, but tropical storm Cristobal caused damage in southeast Louisiana in June. And Laura demolished much of the southwestern part of the state on Aug. 27, causing more than 30 deaths.
Life wasn’t at a complete standstill though. A gas station was doing steady business as people filled their cars and spare gasoline cans, and a grocery store served last customers stocking up. Similar scenes played out not far away in New Iberia, where the few signs of life included cars lined up at a drive-thru daiquiri shop and people grabbing food at takeout restaurants.
‘Already suffered enough’
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards noted in a radio show that Delta appeared headed for the area near the Texas state line that was devastated by Laura, including Lake Charles and surrounding Calcasieu Parish, and rural Cameron Parish on the coast. “And we’ve got people who are very tired,” he said.
“People of Lake Charles and in Cameron Parish have already suffered enough, and then here comes this one,” said Desi Milligan, who owns an RV park in Cameron that was heavily damaged by Laura.
Reminders of Laura’s danger are everywhere in the region. In nearby Bell City, some debris piles are more than two metres high and 23 metres long. Concerns mounted Friday that Delta’s arrival would cause the debris to become airborne, deadly projectiles.
Delta had already clipped Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 2 hurricane just south of the resort city of Cancun early Wednesday, bringing high winds and heavy rain. No deaths or injuries were reported there.