The first hurricane warning for the US coast was issued late Wednesday as Hurricane Delta churned toward the northern Gulf Coast, packing sustained winds of 100 mph.
The powerful Category 2 storm is expected to strengthen as it approaches the coast, bringing “life-threatening” storm surge and dangerous winds Friday before it drenches other parts of the country further inland, the National Hurricane Center said.
Communities forecast to take the brunt of the storm are still reeling from Hurricane Laura, which destroyed parts of Louisiana’s power grid and left thousands without homes. Now Delta — already historic in more ways than one — is expected to bring up to 11 feet of water to some parts of Louisiana.
After making landfall on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 2 hurricane, the storm’s center is forecast to move over the south-central Gulf of Mexico Thursday and approach areas under the hurricane warning Friday, according to the hurricane center. It’s expected to move inland by late Friday, the center said.
The warning covers areas east of Sabine Pass to Morgan City, Louisiana.
One of the communities bracing for impact is Lake Charles, which was left in shambles after Hurricane Laura made landfall in August.
“Much progress has been made since Laura, but there are still many people going through pain and struggle,” Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter wrote in a Facebook post this week. “If there ever was a community that could make it through 2020, it would be Lake Charles. I firmly believe we are up to the task.”
Parts of Louisiana could see up to 11 feet of water
A powerful storm surge and tide will flood areas near the coast that are usually dry, the center said.
Areas from Pecan Island to Port Fourchon in Louisiana, including Vermilion Bay, could see up to 11 feet of water, while other parts from Cameron to Pecan Island could see up to seven feet of water.
“The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the east of the landfall location, where the surge will be accompanied by large and dangerous waves,” the center said.
Delta could also drop up to eight inches of rain Friday and Saturday — across parts of the central Gulf Coast to the Middle Mississippi Valley, the center said. As the storm moves further into the country, the Ohio Valley and Mid Atlantic could also see several inches of rain.
The Cameron Parish — the westernmost parish along Louisiana’s coast — ordered a mandatory evacuation for the “majority” of the parish, the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness said in a news release. The order goes into effect Thursday morning.
“These are unprecedented circumstances, and we realize a large portion of our residents are still displaced due to Laura,” the office said.
Officials also issued a mandatory evacuation in Calcasieu Parish, saying they expect powerful winds to begin late Thursday night. According to the hurricane center, hurricane conditions are expected in the warning area by Friday evening.
Devastated communities await another disaster
The threats of the hurricane come just weeks after Hurricane Laura tore through southern communities and left 15 people dead.
More than 6,000 evacuees from that storm remain in hotels throughout Louisiana while another 2,000 are being housed in Texas, the governor said.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said more than 10,000 homes in Southwest Louisiana were destroyed during Hurricane Laura.
About 35,000 homes had major damage and another 38,000 had moderate damage, the governor said during a news conference Wednesday.
“This is the reality that many homeowners are facing as we prepare for Delta,” Edwards said. “Obviously, it’s not a very good situation.”
Mississippi and Texas prepare for storm
Ahead of the storm, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves declared a State of Emergency, urging residents to “prep for the worst.”
“At this time, the heaviest rain and strongest wind is projected to be felt Friday afternoon through midday Saturday across Southwest Mississippi and further north along the Mississippi River,” the governor’s office said in a Wednesday statement.
In Texas, the governor announced the state was preparing resources ahead of the storm to be ready to respond to local communities.
“As Hurricane Delta moves through the Gulf, the State of Texas is supporting communities along the Gulf Coast and providing the resources they need to respond to this storm,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a news release.
“Texans in the path of this storm should continue to heed the guidance and direction of local officials, remain cautious, and remember – Turn Around, Don’t Drown. We will continue to monitor Hurricane Delta and work alongside our local partners to keep Texans safe.”