Delta weakens to tropical storm as it pummels Louisiana
LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — Ripping tarps from already damaged roofs and scattering debris piled by roadsides, Delta inflicted a new round of destruction on Louisiana as it struck communities still reeling after Hurricane Laura took a similar path just six weeks earlier.
Delta hit as a Category 2 hurricane, with top winds of 100 mph (155 kph) but rapidly grew weaker. By early Saturday, it dwindled to a tropical storm with 60 mph (95 kph) winds. Still, forecasters warned of danger from storm surge and flash floods across much of southwestern Louisiana and parts of neighboring Texas.
Delta made landfall Friday evening near the coastal town of Creole — a distance of only about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from where Laura struck land in August, killing 27 people in Louisiana. The earlier storm damaged nearly every home and building in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Piles of moldy mattresses, sawed-up trees and other debris still lined the streets.
Mayor Nic Hunter said tarps were flying off homes across the city.
“I’m in a building right now with a tarp on it and just the sound of the tarp flapping on the building sounds like someone pounding with a sledgehammer on top of the building,” Hunter said as he rode out the storm downtown. “It’s pretty intense.”
In Lake Charles, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) inland from where Delta came ashore, water leaked through the ceiling of Ernest Jack’s bedroom as he tried to sleep Friday night. Jack said the tarp cover the roof damage caused by Laura hadn’t blown off. His windows were covered to protect against flying debris.
“It’s raining real hard; it’s flooding; the wind is strong,” Jack said Friday night. “I’m OK. I’m not worried about nothing, just praying that everything goes well.”
In the town of Lake Arthur, Delta’s winds peeled shingles off the roof of L’Banca Albergo Hotel, an eight-room boutique hotel in what used to be a bank.
“I probably don’t have a shingle left on the top of this hotel,” owner Roberta Palermo said as the winds gusted outside.
Palermo said the electricity was out and she could see pieces of metal coming off the roof of a 100-year-old building across the street. Unsecured trash cans were flying around the streets.
“There is a lot of power lines down all over the place, there’s ... really deep water in certain spots,” said hotel guest Johnny Weaver. He had been out in the weather with his friends earlier and the friend’s car was stranded in the water.
Delta’s reach stretched as far west as Galveston, Texas, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from where the storm struck Louisiana. Two homes under construction were toppled by winds, as were some trees and signs in the area. Beach dunes flattened by earlier storms allowed storm surge to reach beneath some of Galveston’s raised beach houses.
Power outages in Louisiana and neighboring Texas neared 600,000 homes and businesses early Saturday, according to the tracking website PowerOutage.us. Almost 40,000 outages were reported in Mississippi.
Delta, the 25th named storm of an unprecedented Atlantic hurricane season, made the record books when it struck the Gulf Coast. It was the first Greek-alphabet-named hurricane to hit the continental U.S. And it became the 10th named storm to hit the mainland U.S. this year, breaking a century-old record set in 1916, according to Colorado State University researcher Phil Klotzbach.
The storm was projected to move into northern Mississippi on Saturday and then into the Tennessee Valley as a tropical depression.
Delta was the fourth named storm to strike Louisiana in 2020. Tropical Storm Marco fizzled as it hit the southeast Louisiana tip just three days before Laura struck. And Tropical Storm Cristobal caused damage in southeast Louisiana in June.
Some who rode out Laura chose to hunker down again with Delta. In Lafayette, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Lake Charles, Jeanne-Marie Gove could hear debris hitting the front door of her apartment Friday night and her patio gate banging open and shut.
“The wind is much worse than what Hurricane Laura brought,” Gove said in a message on Twitter.
The roof from a trailer at the mobile home park behind her apartment was torn off and being tossed down the sidewalk.
“The wind gusts are making the glass from our windows bow inward,” Gove added. “It’s pretty scary.”
Associated Press contributors include Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Gerald Herbert in Lake Charles, Louisiana; Kevin McGill in New Orleans; Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland; Russ Bynum in Savannah, Georgia; Leah Willingham in Jackson, Mississippi; and Sophia Tulp in Atlanta.
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