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Hurricane Delta Weakens After Making Landfall On Southwest Louisiana Coast

Hurricane Delta brings the risk of deadly flooding to Louisiana's southwestern coast after making landfall Friday.
Hurricane Delta brings the risk of deadly flooding to Louisiana's southwestern coast after making landfall Friday.

Updated at 10:09 p.m. ET

Hurricane Delta has weakened after making landfall Friday near Creole, La., becoming a Category 1 storm. Delta had come ashore as a Category 2 storm with winds of 100 mph.

The maximum sustained winds fell to 80 mph, the National Hurricane Center announcedat 10 p.m. ET.

The NHC reported strong winds "continue to spread inland across Louisiana."

Delta is moving in a north-northeastern direction near the state's southwestern coast.

It is the second hurricane to strike Louisiana over the last six weeks. Hurricane Laura crashed ashore in August.

The National Hurricane Center reported that the storm is expected to weaken more now it has reached land but that life-threatening storm surge warnings remain in effect.

"A NOAA National Weather Service water level gauge at Freshwater Canal Locks, Louisiana, recently reported storm surge inundation of over 8 feet above ground level," the agency said in its latest statement.

Delta will bring a "life-threatening storm surge, destructive winds, and significant flooding" to the U.S. Gulf Coast, the National Weather Service said. The storm's first landfall was Wednesday morning along the northeastern coast of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula near Puerto Morelos before it moved back out into the Gulf of Mexico.

The National Weather Service office in New Orleans warned residents, "Worsening conditions are expected through the day."

"The good news is that Delta is moving relatively quickly," so its torrential rains aren't expected to linger in the area, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a news briefing Friday afternoon.

Edwards stressed the need for people to shelter in place, obey local emergency orders and carefully follow safety precautions for using a generator. The governor noted that of the 30 deaths the state now attributes to Laura, nine were from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Members of the Louisiana National Guard prepare beds in a shelter Friday in Lake Charles ahead of the hurricane.
Gerald Herbert / AP
Members of the Louisiana National Guard prepare beds in a shelter Friday in Lake Charles ahead of the hurricane.

Thousands of National Guard troops and other emergency responders prepared for widespread destruction in advance of the storm hammering the coast. As of midday Friday, Edwards said the state's main location for evacuees in Alexandria had already reached capacity after 800 people sought refuge, The Advocate reported.

Hurricane warnings center on the coast, but they extend well inland because of Delta's large size. Tropical storm warnings cover an even larger area, up to Louisiana's northeast border with Arkansas.

"Authorities have told people in the barrier islands and coastal towns of Louisiana to leave," NPR's John Burnett reported from Lafayette. "There's a mandatory evacuation order in Lake Charles, which has not recovered from Category 4 Hurricane Laura. Neighborhoods are empty, and blue tarps precariously cover roofs torn off only weeks ago."

"It's a very healthy storm," National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said in an online briefing Friday morning.

Noting satellite imagery that shows clouds and vapor fanning out along the edges of the system, Graham added, "The air coming in, building that convection, and all those winds, and then the air coming out — you can see this thing basically breathing."

A hurricane warning is in effect from High Island, Texas, east of Galveston, to Morgan City, La., south of Baton Rouge. Delta's rains have been falling on southwestern Louisiana and southeast Texas. It's also bringing a storm surge that could cause water to rise 7 to 11 feet above ground.

As forecasters predicted, the storm weakened slightly before making landfall as it met cooler waters and less favorable wind conditions near the Louisiana coast.

"Regardless, Delta is forecast to be near major hurricane intensity when it makes landfall and significant impacts are expected," the National Hurricane Center said earlier.

Storms of similar intensity commonly cause major damage to homes, snap or uproot trees, and lead to widespread power outages. Officials had urged people in the warning zones to prepare for the hurricane's arrival, saying conditions would be too dangerous to complete such work on Friday.

Delta's strength has sharply fluctuated since it became a hurricane Monday — including explosive growth early on, from 40 mph Monday morning to a Category 4 hurricane on Tuesday with winds of 130 mph.

Despite that early strength, the storm was relatively small. But it grew larger as it crossed the Gulf of Mexico's warm waters.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.