Coastal Louisianans on Saturday surveyed the damage left by the wind and water that Hurricane Delta raked across their already storm-battered homes even as it weakened quickly after coming ashore and moved rapidly toward the northeast.
Hundreds of thousands of residents were left without power after Delta made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 100 miles per hour (161 kph) on Friday near the town of Creole.
By Saturday morning, however, Delta barely ranked as tropical storm with winds down to 40 miles per hour (65 kph), although it continued bringing heavy rains to northeastern Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported.
The storm brought local flooding of streets and riverbanks after closely tracking the path of destruction left by more powerful Hurricane Laura, which came ashore in late August with 150-mph (241-kph) winds.
“Though Delta may have been a ‘weaker’ storm than Laura, Delta has been more of a water event than a wind event,” Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter wrote on Facebook on Saturday.
With his entire city without power, Hunter urged residents who had evacuated to stay away for at least another day.
Laura damaged tens of thousands of homes, leaving roofs across the region dotted with protective blue tarpaulins and more than 6,000 people living temporarily in hotels.
Delta spared many of the rooftop tarps that were still up, but it flooded some streets and littered others with downed trees and branches street.
“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 which escaped damage in both storms.
By mid-morning on Saturday, some 575,000 customers across Louisiana were without power, down from nearly 600,000, according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks disruptions across the United States.
Sylvia Pastrano said she had to position three trash cans over her bed to catch the water leaking through her roof that was already damaged by Laura.
“Last night, it was terrifying, the whistling and whistling,” said Pastrano, 65.
No deaths were immediately reported, but authorities cautioned that many storm-related fatalities occur from accidental falls during cleanup or from carbon monoxide poisoning from improper use of home generators.
“With power outages across the state, it’s important for everyone using portable generators to do so safely,” Governor John Bel Edwards said on Twitter.
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, when Hurricane Katrina destroyed more than 100 offshore platforms and hobbled output for months.
The storm was expected to weaken further to a tropical depression later on Saturday and continue bringing rain though Tennessee, Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley through early next week.
Delta was the 10th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season to make a U.S. landfall this year, eclipsing a record dating to 1916.
(Writing and additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York.)