• Tue. Jan 19th, 2021

Hurricane Delta strengthens as it takes aim at storm-weary Louisiana coast

Hurricane Delta is gaining strength and size over the Gulf of Mexico as it takes aim for the Louisiana coast, which is still recovering from a powerful Category 4 storm six weeks ago that ripped houses from their foundations, peeled off roofs and tore trailers in half.

Delta is expected to make landfall along the southwest Louisiana coast on Friday afternoon or evening.

It will be the 10th hurricane to make landfall on the mainland U.S. this season, setting a new record.

“We just can’t seem to get a break from the weather,” one Louisiana resident told NBC News.

A video from a reconnaissance flight into the storm by the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters shows dark, stormy skies stretching for miles on Thursday morning.

The storm is churning toward the area around Lake Charles, which still has about 5,600 residents in New Orleans hotels because their homes are too damaged to occupy from Hurricane Laura in late August.

Trees, roofs and other debris left in Laura’s wake still sit by roadsides waiting for pickup even as forecasters warned that Delta could be a larger-than-average storm.

The large majority of structures damaged by Laura haven’t been permanently repaired, Gov. John Bel Edwards said on Wednesday.

“All that debris could become missiles in really strong wind,” said Edwards, who also worried about the “sheer anxiety” the storm could cause residents who are already traumatized.

The Lake Charles area is expected to get hit with tropical-storm force winds starting at about noon Friday. When the hurricane makes landfall later in the day, maximum sustained winds of 100 to 115 mph and life-threatening flooding are forecast.

Forecasters at midday Thursday expanded the zone where a high storm surge is expected. Now, a large stretch of low-lying Louisiana, from Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge to Port Fourchon, including Vermilion Bay, could see coastal waters rise by 7 to 11 feet.

Four million people from coastal Louisiana up through central Mississippi are under flash flood watches.

The storm’s slight western shift may have spared the Alabama coast from a direct hit, as that state continues to recover from Hurricane Sally.

Delta first struck Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday as a Category 2 storm, forcing tourists in the area’s resorts to hunker down.

It then weakened slightly before moving north over the Gulf of Mexico, where it strengthened again to a Category 2.

As of 10 a.m. CT, the hurricane was about 400 miles south of Cameron, Louisiana, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, and moving northwest at 14 mph.

The National Hurricane Center announced a hurricane warning — which means life-threatening conditions are forecast within 36 hours — is in effect for a stretch of coast from High Island, Texas, to Morgan City, Louisiana.

Tropical-storm warnings are in effect to the west and east — from San Luis Pass in Texas to the mouth of the Pearl River near Lake Ponchartrain in Louisiana.

Tropical-storm watches are in effect east to Bay St. Louis in Mississippi.

The governors of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi declared states of emergencies, and on Wednesday President Trump approved Louisiana’s request for a federal emergency declaration.

The Associated Press contributed.