Busy 2020 hurricane season has Louisiana bracing a 6th time
MORGAN CITY, La. (AP) - For the sixth time in Atlantic hurricane season, people of Louisiana are again fleeing the state's barrier islands and sailing boats to a safe haven as emergency officers ramp up command centers and order evacuations.
The storm observed on Wednesday was Hurricane Delta, the 25th storm of the unprecedented hurricane season in the Atlantic. Forecasts have put most of Louisiana on the deltas. The youngest National Hurricane Center estimates the landing in the state on Friday.
The center's forecasters warned of winds that could flow well over 160 km / h and up to 3.4 m of seawater if the center of the storm hits land.
"This season has been relentless," said Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards, brushing off his now usual 2020 chorus. "Prepare for the worst. Pray for the best."
A hurricane warning has been issued for part of the northern US Gulf Coast. The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the Delta is expected to turn into a major hurricane again, as it did days before it crossed part of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. However, some slowdown is forecast as soon as Delta approaches the northern Gulf Coast on Friday.
So far, Louisiana has seen both major strikes and near misses. The state's southwest area around Lake Charles, which is forecast to be on Delta's current trajectory, is still recovering from a Category 4 Hurricane landing on August 27th.
Almost six weeks later, around 5,600 people are staying in New Orleans hotels because their homes are too damaged to occupy. Trees, roofs, and other debris left in Laura's wake are still lining roadsides in the Lake Charles area, waiting to be picked up, even though forecasters have warned the Delta could be a higher-than-average storm.
New Orleans spent a few days preparing for Hurricane Sally last month before sliding eastward and landing in Alabama on September 16.
It is predicted that Delta will revert to a Category 3 storm after hitting Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday, then weaken slightly as it approaches Louisiana. The National Hurricane Center's forecast assumes the storm will come ashore in a sparsely populated area between Cameron and Vermilion Bay.
Edwards said President Donald Trump agreed to pre-sign a federal declaration of emergency for the state. The Democratic governor said he did not expect widespread mandatory evacuations.
But Edwards said Wednesday that the delta is moving rapidly, so hurricane-force winds could penetrate far inland and expected heavy rains could cause flooding.
Plywood, batteries, and ropes were already flying off the shelves of the Tiger Island hardware store in Morgan City, Louisiana, near the center of the storm path.
"The others didn't bother me, but this one seems to be the target," said customer Terry Guarisco as a shop clerk helped him load his truck with plywood that was needed to get into his house.
In Sulfur, across the Calcasieu River from Lake Charles, Ben Reynolds decided whether to leave or stay. After Hurricane Laura, he had to use a generator to provide electricity for a week.
"It's depressing," said Reynolds. "It's scary as hell."
By Wednesday sundown, Acy Cooper planned to house his three shrimp boats in a bayou in Louisiana for the third time this season.
"We don't make any money," said Cooper. "Every time someone comes, we lose a week or two."
Lynn Nguyen, who works at the TLC Seafood Market in Abbeville, said any storm hazard will force fishermen to spend days pulling or losing hundreds of crab traps from the water.
"It's been a tough year. As soon as you get your traps out and fish, it's time to pull them back out because something is brewing out there," said Nguyen.
Elsewhere in Abbeville, Wednesday brought another round of boarding and planning, said Lynn Guillory, executive director of the Vermilion Chamber of Commerce.
"I think the stress is not just the stress of the storm this year, it is everything - one thing at a time," said Guillory. "Someone just said to me," You know, we really have enough. "
On the Grand Isle, the Starfish Restaurant was supposed to stay open until there was no food on Wednesday. Restaurant worker Nicole Fantiny then planned to join the onslaught of people leaving the barrier island where the COVID-19 pandemic had already devastated the tourism industry.
“The epidemic, the coronavirus, made many people unemployed. It has been taking a long time now that I have to leave once a month because of these storms, "said Fantiny. She tried to quit smoking two weeks ago but gave in and bought a pack of cigarettes on Tuesday when Delta got stronger.
While New Orleans was largely spared the weather and was outside the Delta Cone on Wednesday, constant vigilance and months as a COVID-19 hotspot have weighed on a vulnerable city still marred by memories of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Delta's shifting forecast lane likely meant no need for a major evacuation, but the city's emergency officers were on alert.
"We had five near misses. We need to look very, very carefully," said Collin Arnold, New Orleans emergency director.
In addition to Hurricane Laura and the escape from Hurricane Sally, Louisiana also experienced severe flooding from tropical storm Cristobal on June 7th. Tropical Storm Beta sparked tropical storm warnings in mid-September as it slowly crawled up the northeast coast of Texas.
Tropical Storm Marco looked like it was going to trigger the first half of a hurricane one-two with Laura, but it almost dissipated before hitting the state near the Mississippi Estuary on Aug. 24.
"I don't really remember all of the names," said Keith Dunn as he charged his crab traps when a storm threatened for the fourth time this season in Theriot, a tiny bayou town just meters above sea level.
And there are nearly eight weeks of hurricane season left, despite New Orleans' National Weather Service forecasters in a discussion on Tuesday of this week's forecast stated that the skies over the Gulf of Mexico outside of Delta are calm.
"We are not seeing any signs of additional tropical weather in the extended area which is fine with us as we are done with the 2020 hurricane season," they wrote.
Santana reported from New Orleans. Gerald Herbert in Theriot, Louisiana; Kevin McGill in New Orleans; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Leah Willingham in Jackson, Mississippi; and Jeffrey Collins of Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.
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