LAKE CHARLES, La. (Reuters) – Weary residents of coastal Louisiana began cleaning up on Saturday from wind and water damage inflicted by Hurricane Delta to their already storm-battered region, even as it weakened and moved northeast.
Delta made landfall near the town of Creole in Cameron Parish early Friday evening as a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, packing sustained winds of 100 miles per hour.
Though not as powerful as August’s Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm that tore homes and businesses apart, Delta toppled trees and power poles, leaving hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents without power.
The storm weakened to a tropical depression as it moved inland to western Mississippi, according to the National Hurricane Center, but still carried heavy rains.
Sylvia Pastrano, 65, said the roof of her Lake Charles, Louisiana home leaked from Delta’s rains after being initially damaged by Laura. She positioned three trash cans over her bed to catch the water.
“We were debating whether to leave or not but my husband has got orthopedic issues and I do too and we’re just too exhausted to even get up and evacuate,” Pastrano said. “Last night it was terrifying, the whistling and whistling.”
Delta brought widespread flooding of streets and riverbanks, mostly in southwestern Louisiana, tracking the path of destruction left by Laura but causing damage over a larger swath of the Gulf Coast.
“Even if it wasn’t quite as powerful as Hurricane Laura, it was much bigger,” Governor John Bel Edwards told a briefing in Baton Rouge.
Some 3,000 National Guard troops had been called up to distribute relief supplies, clear roads, maintain security and conduct search and rescue operations, the governor said.
600,000 WITHOUT POWER
While no deaths have so far been linked to Delta, Edwards said storm-related fatalities often occur in accidents such as falls, during clean-up operations, or from carbon monoxide poisoning from residents using home generators.
About 600,000 of the state’s electric customers, 25% of the total, were without power at midday, Edwards said. But restoration was progressing faster than it did after Laura because Delta’s winds were less damaging to the infrastructure, he said.
Laura’s winds damaged tens of thousands of homes, leaving roofs across the region dotted with blue tarpaulins. More than 6,000 people were still living temporarily in hotels when Delta struck.
Delta spared many of the rooftop tarps that were still up, but deluged some streets and littered others with downed trees and branches.
“Laura was much worse,” said Lake Charles resident Matthew Williams, 49. “This was more rain than wind.”
Williams, who had just gotten his power back about a week and a half ago after the outage left by Laura, said he rode out the storm at his home.
With the sun shining brightly, Frederick Hannie, 35, surveyed the water damage to his gym, CrossFit Lake Charles, which had already sustained wind and roof damage from Laura.
Between two hurricanes and the coronavirus pandemic, Hannie said, “it definitely takes a little financial gymnastics” to run a business this year.
As Delta made its way over the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, energy companies cut back U.S. oil production by about 92%, or 1.7 million barrels per day – the most since 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
While the storm is expected to continue weakening, it is forecast to bring rain though Tennessee, Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley through early next week.
Delta was the tenth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season to make U.S. landfall this year, eclipsing a record dating to 1916.
(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly in Lake Charles; Writing and additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Rosalba O’Brien)