Hurricane Laura’s winds batter Louisiana, killing six
At least six people have been killed as Hurricane Laura battered the US state of Louisiana.
Winds of up to 150mph (240km/h) caused severe damage, with power cuts to more than half a million homes and a chemical fire from an industrial plant.
But the feared 20ft (6m) storm surge was avoided as the hurricane, the state’s biggest, tracked further east.
Laura has now been downgraded to tropical storm status.
It has since crossed into Arkansas. At 19:00 local time (00:00 GMT) on Thursday the National Hurricane Center said the storm had weakened to maximum sustained winds of 40mph (65km/h), but was still bringing heavy rainfall.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said the state „did not sustain and suffer the absolute, catastrophic damage that we thought was likely,” but stressed they had still suffered „a tremendous amount of damage” and warned people to remain vigilant.
President Donald Trump was briefed at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) in Washington and said he would go to the area at the weekend.
He said he had been prepared to postpone his speech at the Republican National Convention later on Thursday to travel to the region but added: „We got a bit lucky. It was very big and very powerful but it passed quickly.” The president will visit the states affected at the weekend.
Laura and another storm, Marco, earlier swept across the Caribbean, killing 24 people.
What’s the latest from Louisiana?
At least six people are known to have died after the storm crashed into the US, Gov Edwards told reporters.
Of those, four were killed by falling trees. One man drowned in a boat that sank and another died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator in his home, authorities said.
There was more structural damage from winds than anticipated, but the water damage was less than feared.
Nearly 900,000 homes and businesses lost power as the storm hit the US.
A barge had collided with a bridge in the city of Lake Charles, quite close to where a suspected „chlorine chemical fire” at an industrial plant was being attended by emergency services.
Mr Edwards said people should stay off the roads where possible, as outer bands of the storm were still causing high water levels and winds.
Some 1,500 people, including National Guard troops, are being deployed in rescue and clean-up missions.
Vice-President Mike Pence, who joined Mr Trump at Fema, said: „While this was a major storm with devastating impact it was not as bad as it could have been.”
Where did Laura hit and what’s its path?
It was one of the strongest to ever hit the US Gulf Coast, striking as a category four with winds of up to 150mph (240km/h).
Governor Edwards said it was even more powerful than Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 storm that devastated New Orleans and killed more than 1,800 people.
It made landfall shortly after midnight local time (05:00 GMT) near the district of Cameron, in Louisiana. It tracked north, just east of the Texas-Louisiana border.
As yet, there have been no casualties confirmed in Texas. Governor Greg Abbott toured the area hit by the storm with the US Coast Guard on Thursday, and said the state was „ready to help communities rebuild”.
Lake Charles, a city of 78,000, and its surrounding areas were badly hit. Trees and electricity pylons have been ripped from the ground and vehicles overturned.
Part of the roof of the Golden Nugget Casino flew off, a CNN-affiliated reporter witnessed, and an NWS radar installation was destroyed.
A producer for the WSAZ news channel tweeted before and after images of the 22-storey Capital One tower:
In Sparks, just to the north, Rev Karl Smith rode out the storm in his cellar. He told Reuters: „We just had trees thrown everywhere. It’s a big mess.”
Ahead of the hurricane’s arrival, more than 420,000 Texas residents were ordered to leave, while an additional 200,000 were told to evacuate Calcasieu Parish in south-western Louisiana.
The evacuations were complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
One person headed to a Texas shelter, Eric Daw, told Reuters: „They say we are all supposed to socially distance now. But how am I supposed to socially distance in a shelter?”
What other areas have suffered?
Haiti and the Dominican Republic were both earlier badly hit by storms Marco and Laura, with at least 24 fatalities and severe flooding. Thousands of homes were damaged and there were extensive power cuts.
Cuba suffered material damage but did not record any deaths.
In Jamaica, there were reports of landslides and flooded roads.
The US territory of Puerto Rico was also hit, with President Trump declaring a state of disaster last Saturday.
One of the strongest hurricanes ever to strike the U.S. pounded the Gulf Coast on Thursday, shearing off roofs and killing a least four people, as Laura barreled across Louisiana and maintained ferocious strength while carving a destructive path hundreds of miles inland.
Story contLAKE CHARLES, La. — One of the strongest hurricanes ever to strike the U.S., Laura barreled across Louisiana on Thursday, shearing off roofs, killing at least six people and maintaining ferocious strength while carving a destructive path hundreds of miles inland.
A full assessment of the damage wrought by the Category 4 system was likely to take days, and the threat of additional damage loomed as new tornado warnings were issued after dark in Arkansas and Mississippi.
But despite a trail of demolished buildings, entire neighborhoods left in ruins and almost 900,000 homes and businesses without power, a sense of relief prevailed that Laura was not the annihilating menace forecasters had feared.
“It is clear that we did not sustain and suffer the absolute, catastrophic damage that we thought was likely,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “But we have sustained a tremendous amount of damage.”
He called Laura the most powerful hurricane to strike Louisiana, meaning it surpassed even Katrina, which was a Category 3 storm when it hit in 2005.
The hurricane’s top wind speed of 150 mph put it among the strongest systems on record in the U.S. Not until 11 hours after landfall did Laura finally lose hurricane status as it plowed north and thrashed Arkansas, and even by Thursday evening, it remained a tropical storm with winds of 40 mph.
The storm came ashore in low-lying Louisiana and clobbered Lake Charles, an industrial and casino city of 80,000 people. On Broad Street, many buildings had partially collapsed, and those that didn’t were missing chunks. Windows were blown out, awnings ripped away and trees split in half in eerily misshapen ways. Police spotted a floating casino that came unmoored and hit a bridge. At the local airport, planes were overturned, some on top of each other.
In front of the courthouse was a Confederate statue that local officials had voted to keep in place just days earlier. After Laura, it was toppled.
“It looks like 1,000 tornadoes went through here. It’s just destruction everywhere,” said Brett Geymann, who rode out the storm with three family members in Moss Bluff, near Lake Charles. He described Laura passing over his house with the roar of a jet engine around 2 a.m.
“There are houses that are totally gone. They were there yesterday, but now gone,” he said.
Hurricane Laura leaves six dead in Louisiana but less damage than feared
At least six people were killed by Hurricane Laura in Louisiana and search teams may find more victims, but the governor said Thursday that the most powerful storm to make landfall in the US state in living memory did not cause the „catastrophic” damage that had been feared.
„We have a lot to be thankful for,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said at a press conference.
„It is clear that we did not sustain and suffer the absolute catastrophic damage that we thought was likely based on the forecast we had last night,” Edwards said.
„But we have sustained a tremendous amount of damage,” he said, and thousands of residents of the southern state have had their „lives turned upside down.”
Hurricane Laura struck the coast of Louisiana early Thursday as a Category 4 storm — the second-highest on the wind scale. It has since been downgraded to a tropical storm.
Hurricane Katrina, which left 1,800 people dead in 2005, was a Category 3 storm when it made landfall. Only one storm has made landfall in Louisiana with wind speeds as high as Laura — the Last Island hurricane of 1856, which left hundreds dead.
The Louisiana health department reported there had been six storm-related deaths. According to Edwards, four of them were „related to trees falling on residences.”
Of the other two deaths, health authorities said, one man died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator in his house, and another man drowned when the boat he was in sank during the storm.
„I’m concerned that as we continue to go out and do primary and secondary search and rescue, we’re going to find more fatalities,” Edwards said. „I hope not and pray not.”
He said there were about 600,000 power outages across the state and water services had also suffered some damage.
„We have a lot of work to do,” he said.
Edwards also said residents living near a chemical plant near Lake Charles where there was a chlorine gas fire had been told to shelter in place.
– ‘We thought we were safe’ –
The governor said storm surge „did not materialize to the degree that it had been forecasted” — although it may have reached as high as 15 feet in some places.
The National Hurricane Center had warned of „unsurvivable” storm surge of up to 20 feet, and evacuation orders had been issued for hundreds of thousands of Louisiana and Texas residents.
In Lake Charles, most of the windows of the Capitol One Bank Tower skyscraper were blown out by ferocious gusts that also uprooted trees, power pylons and road signs.
Emergency responders, as well as the National Guard and state wildlife law enforcement officers were helping to evacuate people who had been in Laura’s path.
„Last night was terrifying because we heard a lot of banging, and the apartment was shaking left and right, and we just heard basically loud noises everywhere,” Lake Charles resident Caleb Davis told AFP. He was sitting on the ground in a parking lot after being evacuated.
Wildlife enforcement sergeant Mason Spillman expressed relief, however, that the damage was not as bad as forecast.
„I do not want to downplay it at all, it’s a terrible storm, a lot of people have lost a lot of things,” he said.
„But we are thankful that it didn’t flood, and we’re not making water rescues, swift water rescues or things of that nature.”
President Donald Trump — who said he considered delaying his Republican presidential nomination acceptance speech over the storm — promised to visit the Gulf Coast „very shortly.”
„It turned out we got a little bit lucky,” Trump said. „It was very big. It was very powerful but it passed quickly.”
Satellite images revealed the immense size of the hurricane as it made landfall as a Category 4 storm overnight near the town of Cameron, close to the border with Texas, packing sustained winds of 150 miles (240 kilometers) an hour.Laura was expected to dump four to eight inches of rainfall, with some isolated areas of Louisiana receiving 18 inches.By Thursday afternoon, Laura was a tropical storm and moving towards Arkansas.Laura earlier caused flooding in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, killing at least 25 people.The Atlantic storm season, which runs through November, could be one of the busiest ever this year, with the NHC predicting as many as 25 named storms. Laura is the 12th so far.cl-to/ec
Hurricane Laura leaves at least six dead and a trail of destruction
The most intense hurricane to hit Louisiana in more than a century has left at least six people dead, hundreds of thousands of people without power and an untold number of homes and buildings in ruins.
Laura, which was downgraded to a tropical storm Thursday after making landfall as a Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph winds, was expected to weaken to a tropical depression overnight as it moves across Arkansas, the National Hurricane Center said.
“It is clear that we did not sustain and suffer the absolute, catastrophic damage that we thought was likely based on the forecast we had last night,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards told reporters Thursday. “But we have sustained a tremendous amount of damage. We have thousands and thousands of our fellow citizens whose lives are upside down.”
Officials with the Louisiana Department of Health said that three of the six deaths occurred in two coastal parishes — Acadia and Calcasieu. Three other people died in the eastern and northern part of the state. Officials attributed four of the deaths to falling trees.
A 24-year-old man also died from carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator, the department said. Another person who was in a boat during the storm drowned.
The storm caused serious destruction. On the Calcasieu River, the Lake Charles Isle of Capri Casino Barge broke free of its moorings and slammed into a bridge along Interstate 10, the highway that connects Houston and New Orleans.
A few miles away, a fire at a chemical manufacturing plant in the city of Westlake prompted a shelter-in-place advisory after a giant plume of smoke rose into the sky. The fire at the BioLab plant, which makes household cleaners, was burning chlorine.
No injuries or deaths have been reported at the plant or casino.
In the city of Lake Charles, population roughly 78,000, images of a major financial building, the Capital One Tower, showed dozens of windows that had been blown out. Meteorology student Levi Newell, 20, who documented the storm in the city overnight, told NBC News that he saw sections of drywall and roofs whipping through town.
“Lake Charles will look very different when the sun rises,” Newell tweeted. “Absolute devastation.”
In the nearby community of Moss Bluff, Brett Geymann told the Associated Press that Laura sounded like a jet engine when it passed over his house at 2 a.m. He compared the storm’s destruction to a thousand tornadoes.
“There are houses that are totally gone,” he said.
As of 7 p.m. C.T., nearly 540,000 customers were without electricity, according to PowerOutage.us, a site that tracks, records, and aggregates power outages across the U.S. The Louisiana Department of Health estimated that another 220,000 people were without drinking water.
Still, the potentially catastrophic 15 to 20 foot storm surge that the National Hurricane Center had predicted appeared to remain several feet lower. Forecasters attributed this in part to timing — Laura made landfall when the tide had begun to recede — and because the storm shifted east slightly, preventing a direct hit on Lake Charles.
In Texas, where nearly 300,000 customers were without power, according to PowerOutage.us, Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday that the state “dodged a bullet.”
“When you consider the magnitude of the damage that could have occurred here, we dodged a bullet,” Abbott said. “If we make it through a Category 4 hurricane that ripped through the coastline all the way up through the Texarkana area, and we have been able to have minimal or perhaps no loss of life — that’s a miracle.”