Nearly a half-million Louisiana homes were reportedly without electrical power early Saturday morning, hours after Hurricane Delta made landfall in the Gulf Coast state.
As of 11:30 p.m. CT Friday, nearly 465,000 Louisiana households were affected by the outage, according to poweroutage.us. The number rose to more than 480,000 households shortly after midnight.
By 1 a.m. CT Saturday, the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm, according to an advisory from the National Hurricane Center.
At that time, the storm was located 15 miles east-southeast of Alexandria, La., with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph, the NHS advisory said.
Delta had hit land around 6 p.m. CT Friday near Creole, La., with heavy rainfall and strong winds in a region already battered by multiple hurricanes this year.
On Friday morning, Delta was still off the Louisiana coast when it was downgraded from a Category 3 hurricane — with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph — to a Category 2, with sustained winds of 115 mph, the NHC reported.
Just over an hour after making landfall, the storm weakened to a Category 1 as it continued to move inland.
Delta had sustained winds near 100 mph when it made landfall as a life-threatening storm surge.
Winds were so strong that shingles atop the eight-room boutique L’Banca Albergo Hotel in Lake Arthur were pulled off.
“I probably don’t have a shingle left on the top of this hotel,” owner Roberta Palermo told The Associated Press.
She said the electricity was out and, across the street, she could see pieces of metal coming off the roof of a 100-year-old building. Unsecured trash cans were flying around on the streets.
In Watson, La., a tree fell on a man and briefly pinned him down near his home, WAFB-TV of Baton Rouge reported. He was eventually rescued by authorities.
In Galveston, Texas, nearly 100 miles west from where Delta made landfall, two homes under construction were toppled along with trees and signs. A spokesman for a construction firm told the Galveston Daily News the homes were in the early stages of framing.
The worst of the storm was ashore between Lake Charles and Lafayette as Delta’s eyewall moved inland, The Weather Channel reported.
“It’s devastating and it’s emotional for the citizenry,” Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said as he prepared to ride out the storm in downtown Lake Charles.
Damaged roofs and debris such as trees and mattresses from Hurricane Laura several weeks ago still lined some streets. Hunter said tarps were seen flying off homes as winds picked up.
Hours earlier, Delta made landfall along the Yucatan Peninsula and then strengthened as it traveled across the Gulf.
Fox News’ Brandon Noriega forecasted the storm to make landfall along Louisiana just east of Cameron, where Laura made landfall in August.
“Delta is the fastest storm to intensify from tropical depression to a Category 4 storm in modern records,” said Michael Ventrice, a meteorological scientist for The Weather Company. Delta strengthened from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane over 36 hours earlier in the week, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
The storm is expected to weaken as it moves across the state into Saturday morning when it will most likely be downgraded to a tropical storm. Those weaker speeds still may cause significant damage to a region that has already suffered several previous storm systems.
“The fact that it’s weakening should not cause anyone to lose focus or lose vigilance, because this is still a very strong storm,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said during a news conference Friday as Delta appeared to be losing strength before making landfall.
Laura hit the same region six weeks ago, devastating parts of Texas, Louisiana and Florida with flooding and wind damage.
The rapid changes in the storm strength made it difficult for states to prepare ahead of landfall, as preparations were “rushed” ahead of the weekend, the NHC tweeted.
LAKE CHARLES BRACES FOR HURRICANE DELTA AS MAYOR SAYS AREA WON’T ‘BE A SAFE PLACE THIS WEEKEND’
Some tornadoes also will be possible, especially east of where the center of the system comes ashore. The greatest threat of tornadoes is in southern parts of Louisiana and Mississippi starting late Wednesday night.
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Significant flash, urban and small stream flooding is possible for extreme east Texas, Louisiana, southern Arkansas and western Mississippi.
Rainfall storm totals between 5 and 10 inches will spread into the Lower Mississippi River and Tennessee River Valleys through Saturday.
Forecasters said the storm surge could reach as high as 11 feet along the Louisiana coast. Hours before landfall, the National Hurricane Center reported 4.5 feet of storm surge on the coast east of Cameron.
As of 7 a.m. CT Friday, Delta had caused a storm surge along the Gulf Coast, with rising waters as high as 7 to 11 feet in normally dry areas.
In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency earlier this week and said that resources were being shored up to assist residents. The state is expected to feel Delta’s impact by Saturday.
The storm is a record-breaking 10th named storm to hit the U.S. this year. The previous high was nine storms in 1916, USA Today reported.
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The storm is a record-tying fourth for Louisiana. Delta is the third major hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.