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Hurricane Delta puts Louisiana on alert for 6th time during 'relentless' storm season

Greg Hilburn
Monroe News-Star

BATON ROUGE — Hurricane Delta began bearing down on Louisiana Wednesday, sending lawmakers home early, causing LSU's football team to evacuate to Missouri, and leaving Lake Charles residents praying for intervention as the state found itself within a dreaded storm cone for a record sixth time this year.

Hurricane watches along much of the state's coast were posted after Delta slammed into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and churned into the Gulf of Mexico, where it's expected to strengthen to Category 3 status again before making landfall in Louisiana Friday.

Though Delta's most likely landfall is somewhere between Cameron Parish and Vermilion Bay — perhaps near Morgan City — a second strike on Lake Charles and southwestern Louisiana is possible six weeks after Hurricane Laura decimated the area as a Category 4.

A view of a flooded street in Cancun, Mexico, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. Hurricane Delta made landfall Wednesday just south of the Mexican resort of Cancun as a Category 2 storm, downing trees and knocking out power to some resorts along the northeastern coast of Yucatan Peninsula. (AP Photo/Victor Ruiz Garcia)

"Honestly I don't know how much more Lake Charles and southwestern Louisiana can take," said Lake Charles Sen. Ronnie Johns. "We're going to prepare and accept what the good Lord gives us, but this would be a knockout blow."

Gov. John Bel Edwards said southwest Louisiana “is in no shape to withstand a storm" and again called the hurricane season "relentless" for the state. 

"There is still much structural damage in southwestern Louisiana ... and there remains a lot of debris that strong winds could form into missiles," he said. "I'm very concerned that the five hardest hit parishes from Laura are in the cone."

Edwards said he talked Wednesday with President Donald Trump, who promised to sign a pre-landfall emergency declaration that frees up federal resources ahead of the storm. The governor has already signed a state emergency declaration.

LSU officially announced it will play Saturday's game against Missouri at 11 a.m. at Faurot Field rather than at 8 p.m. in Tiger Stadium as had been scheduled.

Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement Wednesday that "it was critical to relocate the game to an SEC campus where SEC COVID-19 management protocols are in place and readily applied."

Delta storm surge forecast

Storm surge of up to 11 feet is forecast for Vermilion Bay with 4 to 7 feet forecast for most of the rest of the Louisiana coast.

"If that's not menacing enough I'm not sure what is," said Ben Schott, the lead meteorologist for the National Weather Service in New Orleans. "If you're under a tropical storm or hurricane watch you're at great risk."

Edwards said all state offices will be closed Friday.

He said 7,500 utility linemen and women are already staged to assist in power restoration with more than 8,000 at the ready.

"The storm is coming and it's going to be very serious," Edwards said.

Hurricane Delta tracker

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.