‘A time to pick up:’ Hurricane-hurt Louisiana begins cleanup
President Donald Trump toured the damage from Laura in Louisiana and Texas on Saturday. He and Gov. John Bel Edwards made their way down a street blocked by trees and where houses were battered by the storm, which the governor said was the most powerful hurricane to strike the state. That means it surpassed even Katrina, which was a Category 3 storm when it hit 15 years ago on Saturday, to the day.
Although the storm was not as bad as once feared, authorities were still warning it could leave people with out running water or power for weeks in the stifling late summer heat. It made roads impassable, tore roofs and walls off buildings and strew debris about.
It also led to fires at a chlorine plant in Westlake in the hard-hit Lake Charles area. On Saturday, crews were battling a new blaze, leading authorities to broaden a shelter-in-place order to 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) around the plant, state Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Greg Langley said.
It was at least the second fire at the BioLab plant, which makes swimming pool chemicals, after crews extinguished one that filled the skyline around Lake Charles with billowing black smoke after Laura hit. Authorities believe chemical reactions are causing the soaked chemicals to overheat and burst into flames.
Langley said he believed the new fire was about 90% out by Saturday afternoon.
The shelter in place means any residents of the industrial area around the plant are to stay inside with windows and doors shut, in summer heat with no electricity to power air conditioners.
In Lake Charles, a city of 80,000 residents hit head on, Mayor Nic Hunter said the National Guard would begin handing out tarps Sunday to residents so they could cover damaged roofs.
Katlyn Smith, 24, found more than just damage to the roof when she returned to the Jesse James trailer park in the city on Friday to see what remained of her two-bedroom trailer. Speaking Saturday from the park by telephone, she said the wind ripped the roof off “like a sardine can. And then the walls folded in.” Many of the other trailers in the park were also decimated.
Friday night, the few remaining residents barbecued roasts, burgers and chicken in a makeshift grill before the food goes bad. Her car has a flat tire, and she has no cash on hand, so she’s not going anywhere for now.
“There is a time to cry and to be sad and there’s a time to pick up, too. You have to pick yourself up and keeping going and my strength comes from God and my fiance,” she said.
Simply driving was a feat in Lake Charles. Power lines and trees blocked paths or created one-lane roads, leaving drivers to negotiate with oncoming traffic. The parish sheriff’s office posted an extensive update on their Facebook page of streets that were impassable.
The mayor has cautioned people that there is no timetable for restoring electricity and that water-treatment plants “took a beating,” leaving barely a trickle of water coming out of most faucets.
Several hospitals in Calcasieu Parish and one in Cameron Parish evacuated critical patients to other facilities because of water and power issues, the state health department said. Other hospitals are operating on intermittent generator power.
Nineteen babies who weathered the hurricane at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital were brought to other hospitals across around the state. The babies, some on respirators or eating via feeding tubes, were at the neonatal intensive care unit of another hospital and had to be moved Wednesday hours before the hurricane arrived out of concerns that storm surge would swamp the one-story building. Hospital officials said they then decided to move them out of Lake Charles when it became apparent that it could be weeks before water was restored.
Along the coast in Cameron Parish, the receding storm surge left behind sediment and debris. Roads appeared still impassable. At South Cameron High School in Creole, parts of the roof of one building were ripped off, and debris was strewn everywhere. A barge appeared tilted on its side along the water.
Hurricane Laura also killed nearly two dozen people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic en route to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Associated Press journalists Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Rebecca Santana in New Orleans and Ellen Knickmeyer in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.
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The remnants of Hurricane Laura continued to weaken Saturday as it moved toward the mid-Atlantic states, but it still carried a threat of tornadoes and heavy rain along the coast before exiting into the Atlantic Ocean.
Over the open water, forecasters said, Laura could once again become a tropical storm and threaten Newfoundland.
The National Hurricane Service, in its final advisory on the storm, said Laura had weakened to a post-tropical cyclone by Saturday morning, but it still had some punch left.
The forecasters said the storm was producing sustained winds at 25 mph through Kentucky and West Virginia and could increase as Laura neared the mid-Atlantic coast. The hurricane center also warned of possible tornadoes Saturday afternoon and evening from North Carolina to the Delaware-Maryland-Virginia region.
As the storm moves east, it’ll meet up with a cold front, which could bring moderate to heavy rainfall, strong to severe thunderstorms and gusty winds across parts of central Appalachia to the mid-Atlantic states, the National Weather Service said.
Forecasters eye 2 developing systems: Nana, Omar could be next up on the heels of Hurricane Laura
‘Destruction everywhere’: Photos show Hurricane Laura flooded streets, shredded buildings
The U.S. toll from the hurricane stood at 14 deaths Saturday, with more than half of those killed by carbon monoxide poisoning from the unsafe operation of generators.
Laura did not produce the level of destructive storm surge along the Gulf Coast that was forecast when it roared ashore early Thursday as a Category 4 hurricane.
The massive storm, packing 150 mph when it made landfall, destroyed numerous homes and businesses in Louisiana, particularly around Lake Charles and parts of Texas as it barreled northward.
The Louisiana Department of Health reported that more than 220,000 people were without water and might not get service restored for weeks or months.
Forty nursing homes were relying on generators, and assessments were underway to determine if more than 860 residents in 11 facilities that had been evacuated could return.
An early analysis by Accuweather predicts the total damage and economic loss caused by Laura will be $25 to $30 billion. Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler with Enki Research, estimated it to be $20 to $25 billion.
On Friday, President Donald Trump issued a major disaster declaration for Louisiana. The declaration will unlock federal resources and recovery aid.
The president traveled to Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Orange, Texas, on Saturday to tour the damage and meet with first responders and local officials.
The president, wearing a red hat that read „USA” on the front and „Trump” on back, arrived in Louisiana shortly after 1 p.m. ET. Reporters traveling with him could see blue tarps on houses and debris as Air Force One landed at Chennault International Airport.
Trump toured a warehouse used for relief supplies and then traveled to a neighborhood near downtown Lake Charles, where he was joined by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, FEMA director Pete Gaynor and Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
„This was a tremendously powerful storm,” Trump said in Lake Charles. „We have to take care of Louisiana. We have to take care of Texas.”
Edwards 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 also killed nearly two dozen people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic en route to the Gulf Coast.
Contributing: John Fritze, USA TODAY; Greg Hilburn, The News-Star; Associated Press
Laura’s ‘unsurvivable’ storm surge: It looks like Louisiana was spared, but some rural areas likely hit hard
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hurricane Laura path: Tornadoes possible North Carolina, Virginia
LAKE CHARLES, La. — President Donald Trump got a firsthand look Saturday at the damage after Hurricane Laura on a post-Republican National Convention trip that allowed him to use the trappings of his office to try to project empathy and leadership.
His stops, first in Louisiana and later in Texas, came two days after the Category 4 storm slammed the Gulf Coast, leaving at least 16 dead and wreaking havoc with severe winds and flooding. While the storm surge has receded and the cleanup effort has begun, hundreds of thousands remain without power or water, and they could for weeks or months as the hot summer stretches on.
“I’m here to support the great people of Louisiana. It’s been a great state for me,” he said in hard-hit Lake Charles. “It was a tremendously powerful storm.” He said he knows one thing about the state: “They rebuild it fast.”
During the slightly more than two hours he spent in the city, Trump met with officials and relief workers but not with any of the residents whose homes had been ripped apart in the storm.
He did, however, get a good look at the extensive damage and the debris strewn across the city of 80,000 people, beginning with the bird’s eye view from Air Force One as it came in for landing.
His first stop was a warehouse being used as a staging area for the Cajun Navy, a group of Louisiana volunteers who help with search and rescue after hurricanes and floods. “Good job,” Trump told them.
Trump then toured a neighborhood with Gov. John Bel Edwards and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, making his way down a street blocked by felled trees and where houses were battered by the storm, one with its entire roof torn off.
Edwards has said Laura was the most powerful hurricane ever to strike his state, surpassing even Hurricane Katrina, which was a Category 3 when it hit almost exactly 15 years ago.
“Whether you come from Louisiana or 5th Avenue In New York, you know about Katrina,” Trump said.
The president then flew by helicopter to Orange, Texas, which was the worst-hit area in the state. Several hundred supporters greeted his arrival with Trump 2020 flags, banners and signs. Among the officials on hand were Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Before a tour by air over damaged areas, Trump and other officials visited the emergency operations center in Orange County to discuss storm damage and the government response.
Trump has sometimes struggled with his role as consoler in chief, failing to project empathy when visiting places hard hit by tragedy and disaster. That includes in Puerto Rico, where Trump was photographed tossing rolls of paper towel into the crowd, which some saw as inappropriately playful, given the circumstances. During a trip to the Carolinas in 2018, Trump marveled at a yacht floodwaters had washed onto a family’s property, telling them, “At least you got a nice boat out of the deal.” And he was caught on camera telling a person he’d handed out food to “have a good time.”
Other times, Trump has been a source of comfort. After a tornado ripped through Alabama last year, killing nearly two dozen people, Trump spent time with families who’d lost loved ones, listening to their stories and hugging them.
Showing empathy has come more naturally for his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, who issued a statement Saturday saying he and his wife were praying for those hurt by the storm and promising that “we will be there to help you build back better.”
In a possible subtle dig at the incumbent, Biden praised the response of families in the hurricane-hit states and thanked them for “reminding Americans that no disaster, no single person, no injustice can match the humble, personal, courageous ways that Americans choose decency every single day.”
Laura, which packed 150-mph winds and a storm surge as high as 15 feet, toppled trees and damaged buildings as far north as central Arkansas. More than 580,000 coastal residents evacuated in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
More than half of those who died succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning from the unsafe operation of generators. The hurricane also killed nearly two dozen people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic as it barreled toward the U.S.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has visited a rice-growing area devastated by a typhoon on Thursday, as the reclusive country reels from back-to-back natural and manmade catastrophes.
Photos released by state media of the authoritarian leader inspecting fields alongside mask-wearing officials appeared to be framed to convey his benevolence as citizens struggle to cope with the impact of severe monsoon flooding, and the economic toll of the pandemic and ongoing global sanctions.
Typhoon Bavi slammed into the country’s southwestern province of Hwanghae, dealing a damaging blow to its corn stalks, rice paddies and other crops, and raising fears of increased hunger among an already malnourished population.
Ten million people are reported by the United Nations to be suffering from food insecurity, living from harvest to harvest. The country also suffers from years of neglected infrastructure, which exacerbates the effects of natural disasters.
According to the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling party, the typhoon hit hundreds of acres of farming land, felled trees and flooded houses and roads.
During his visit Kim stressed the need to „direct efforts to minimise the damage in the agricultural field in particular and reduction in the harvest,” reported Yonhap, the South Korean newswire, citing the North’s state media.
„It is one of top-priority tasks to be surely carried out by our party to go among the people and encourage and sincerely help them when they are in trouble and feel difficult,” he said.
Last week Kim made an unusually frank admission that North Korea’s economic progress has been “seriously delayed,” pledging to unveil a new five-year economic development plan by this coming January.
It was the latest indication that his regime is feeling the pressure of crippling international sanctions to curb its nuclear weapons ambitions, which have collided with one of the longest monsoon seasons on record and the lockdown of remaining trade routes in an effort to keep the coronavirus at bay.
Officially the hermit kingdom has only had one suspected case of Covid-19 but it was never confirmed.
However, earlier this week, in a rare display of urgency, Kim publicly lamented unspecified „defects” and „shortcomings” in the country’s’ anti-virus campaign and urged that they be corrected swiftly. He also raised the alarm about the incoming typhoon and urged adequate preparation.
This was followed by country’s state TV network providing unprecedented rare real-time coverage of damage caused by wind gusts and rainfalls.
South Korea’s weather agency said the typhoon had a maximum wind speed of 96 mph and was forecast as one of the strongest to hit the peninsula this year.