At least six people in Louisiana have been killed as the state continues to be devastated by Hurricane Laura. Wind speeds have increased to over 150mph and caused severe damage to buildings, cutting power to 500,000 homes and starting a chemical fire in an industrial plant.
It was feared that a 20-foot storm surge would hit large parts of south Louisiana but the state’s biggest ever hurricane moved quickly east, crossing into Arkansas and being downgraded to tropical storm status. President Donald Trump visited the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Washington to be briefed on the full scale and consequences of the hurricane and said he would visit the state in the coming days.
24 people have been killed in the Caribbean recently as a result of Hurricane Laura and another large storm, Marco, earlier wreaked havoc in the region. “My administration is also closely monitoring Hurricane Marco and Tropical Storm Laura, which are coming in rapidly. Hurricane Marco is expected to make landfall in Louisiana tomorrow, and Tropical Storm Laura is expected to hit Louisiana two days later,” President Donald Trump said during the FEMA briefing meeting he attended with VP Mike Pence. “This is somewhat unprecedented, the scope of the storms, and also the fact that they come so quickly after one another. Both storms have the potential of gathering strength before they make landfall and could cause significant damage across the Gulf Coast and also in Puerto Rico.”
“We have everybody stationed and ready to go in Puerto Rico and the Gulf Coast. We have tremendous, tremendous people. FEMA is lined up. We have the Coast Guard ready. The Coast Guard has done a fantastic job. They do such good work, and we want to thank our great Coast Guard. “I’m asking all Americans in the storm’s path to follow the instructions of your state and local governments very closely. I’ve approved emergency declarations for Puerto Rico and for Louisiana. FEMA is mobilized on the ground and is ready to help. They will be in there very quickly, very, very quickly,” Trump continued.
“I spoke to Governor John Bel Edwards also of Louisiana, and I’ve informed him, and at his request also, a major disaster declaration is signed and ready to go. We have everybody ready in Puerto Rico, the Gulf Coast, Louisiana, and also on the forest fires in California. We have a great team. Unfortunately, we have some very, very powerful natural disasters.” The city of Lake Charles, population 78,000, was especially damaged as pylons, trees and cars were sent careering into buildings, causing thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. A CNN-affiliated reporter saw the roof of Golden Nugget Casino rip off, while a NWS radar installation was also damaged beyond repair.
The National Hurricane Center produces reports, forecasts and recommendations and has warned of continued high water levels along the Gulf coast, as well as an extension to the excessive winds and rainfall in both Louisiana and Arkansas. “We need everyone in southwest Louisiana paying very, very close attention to this storm and heeding the warnings that have been going out for a number of hours now,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said during his latest press conference, in which he gave an update on the hurricane and the upcoming forecast.
“You’re going to hear ranges of storm surge that we haven’t heard in Louisiana since Hurricane Audrey in 1957. You’re going to hear the word unsurvivable to describe the storm surge that we are expecting. And what we know is that the weather across southwest Louisiana, and really across all of south Louisiana, will degrade over the next several hours to the point where we’re not going to be able to run our buses, for example, from the Lake Charles area to depopulate individuals, transport them to shelters.” “And at some point, a couple of hours after that, mid-afternoon or so, it won’t be safe for anyone to be on the road down there, so people need to heed the warnings they’ve been given and to evacuate.
“And if you think you’re safe because you’ve made it through Rita in southwest Louisiana, understand this storm is going to be more powerful than Rita. It is gaining strength. It is not losing strength as it approaches the southwest coast.“We know that the storm surge values are higher. The wind speeds will be higher. And so even if you built back stronger and you’re up at 15-feet elevation, understand the storm surge is going to be expected to be 18 to 20 feet in that immediate area where this storm comes and makes landfall,” the 53-year-old said.
Borden Wilson, a 33-year-old Lake Charles resident, told Reuters that he was particularly worried about returning to his home and spoke of his and his neighbors’ lack of preparation for a disaster of this magnitude. “I never even boarded up my windows. I didn’t think to do that. This is the first hurricane I’ve experienced. I just hope my house is fine,” the pediatrician said in a telephone interview.