By David Jacobs | The Center Square
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency as Hurricane Delta takes aim at the Gulf Coast.
Louisiana has been in the possible path of a named storm six times during this year’s unusually active hurricane season. Delta rapidly intensified from a tropical storm into a Category 4 major hurricane in less than 24 hours and is expected to make landfall late Friday or early Saturday.
“This storm is coming to Louisiana,” Edwards said. “This is the hand that we have been dealt.”
The governor of Alabama also declared a state of emergency, and parts of Texas and Mississippi also are likely to be impacted.
Ben Schott with the National Weather Service said forecasters are fairly certain about the path of the storm, though deviation always is possible. The storm may weaken before it reaches shore, though forecasters warn the state’s entire coastal region could face “life-threatening impacts.”
“It is going to be a major hurricane,” Schott said.
However, the storm is moving quickly. The faster a storm moves through the state, the less flooding forecasters would expect. Delta is expected to bring four to six inches of rain, though it could be twice as much in certain areas, forecasters say.
Louisiana still is recovering from Hurricane Laura, which cut a path of destruction along the western half of the state a little more than a month ago. Southwest Louisiana is expected to be on the weaker western side of this storm.
Edwards said electricity has been restored to 98 percent of Calcasieu Parish, which along with Cameron took a direct hit from Laura. But redundant sources of power are not yet available and infrastructure repairs are ongoing, which could create serious issues for business and industry in the region, he said.
“They’re in no shape now to withstand a storm,” Edwards said.
More than 6,600 Laura evacuees currently are being sheltered in Louisiana hotels, mostly in the New Orleans area. Edwards said right now there are no plans to move those survivors again ahead of Delta. Mandatory evacuations within the state’s storm protection systems are not expected to be necessary, though evacuations of some outlying areas may be.
As with Laura, state officials are asking the federal government to help pay for sheltering people in hotel rooms if necessary because of the risk of spreading COVID-19 in mass shelters. Edwards said if the “mega shelter” in Alexandria is needed, he hopes to only use it as a staging area to move people to non-congregant shelters.
At about 4 p.m. Tuesday, Hurricane Delta was about 215 miles east-southeast of Cozumel Mexico. The storm had sustained winds of 145 miles per hour and was moving west-northwest at about 17 miles per hour.