JENNINGS, La. — Hurricane Delta tore across Louisiana late Friday, leaving a trail of destruction as it turned roadways into rapids and uprooted trees that crashed onto roofs. It also dealt a demoralizing blow to a state still staggering its way back from one of the most powerful storms that it had ever endured.
Delta made landfall in Cameron Parish, less than 20 miles to the east from where Hurricane Laura, with its 150 mile-per-hour winds, devastated communities in late August. And it cut a similar path across a wide swath of the state, hurling debris still piled up from the last storm and toppling utility poles and power lines that crews had just put back up.
“The town’s a mess,” Roberta Palermo said of Lake Arthur, La., a small town in Jefferson Davis Parish, which borders Cameron Parish, where she rode out Delta in the hotel she owns. “There’s debris everywhere and trash that didn’t get picked up from the first storm.”
In Cameron Parish, a sprawling and sparsely populated area in the southwest corner of the state, the community of Lake Charles was swamped yet again by storm surge. Fierce winds had pulverized much of the area during Hurricane Laura, but Delta had unleashed flooding.
It quickly became evident that Delta, which hit the coast as a Category 2 storm, lacked the physical force of Laura, a Category 4 hurricane. Still, Delta seemed almost like a testament to nature’s capacity for cruelty, swooping in at the tail end of a brutal, record-breaking hurricane season and pounding beleaguered communities where the lives of residents had already been upended.
“People are feeling a little despondent,” Nic Hunter, the mayor of Lake Charles, said in an interview on Saturday morning. “To go through what we went through six weeks ago, and have another punch in the gut like we received last night, is just unimaginable.”
Delta, the 10th named storm to make landfall in the United States this year, arrived in the final weeks of an Atlantic hurricane season so busy that forecasters ran through an alphabet of names and moved on to calling storms by Greek letters. It had been 15 years since a season, which runs from June to November, has been this active.
The storm made landfall on Friday at about 6 p.m. local time in Cameron Parish, and pushed through the state overnight into Saturday, weakening into a tropical depression. Still, meteorologists warned of the continued threat of flash floods and tornadoes as the storm brought heavy rain and lashing winds across a span reaching from the East Texas coast to as far east as Baton Rouge.
The storm swept through Creole, an unincorporated area of Cameron Parish that had been virtually wiped out by Laura. The intersection that had constituted downtown, with a gas station, restaurant and grocery store, had been reduced to scattered rubble.
The parish, the largest in Louisiana in terms of land mass yet also one of the least populated, had seen an exodus after previous epic hurricanes, Rita in 2005 and Ike in 2008. Now, many others, weary after Laura and dreading the storms likely to come in the future, are contemplating leaving.
“People aren’t hanging around anymore,” said Richard Zuschlag, the chief executive and chairman of Acadian Ambulance, which is based in Lafayette and serves much of the Gulf Coast region.
In Lake Charles, aerial photographs before Delta barreled through captured blotches of blue — the tarpaulins covering homes and businesses whose roofs had been shaved off by Hurricane Laura’s winds. Many of those were ripped off, exposing homes to the elements once again.
The response to Delta was further complicated as Laura had uprooted thousands of families. Many of whom were still living this week in hotels that had been transformed into makeshift shelters. Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said there were more than 9,500 Louisianians in shelters as of Friday afternoon, most of them evacuees from the previous storm.
With this hurricane, much like Laura, Louisiana is being forced to find emergency shelter for large numbers of displaced people while taking into account the risk of spreading the Covid-19 virus.
More than 800 evacuees were being housed because of Delta, many of them in a mega-shelter in Alexandria, a city north of Lafayette. In Lafayette, emergency officials told people who were looking for hotel rooms to ride out the storm to keep moving, as there were no vacancies in the city.
The widespread power outages after Delta have also rekindled fears of one of the worst perils after Hurricane Laura, as many of the deaths associated with that storm were from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by the fumes from generators.
Delta’s path deviated enough from Laura’s to mount a direct assault on parts of the central Louisiana coast that had only been scraped by the earlier storm. In some parts of the state, meteorologists said the storm dumped as much as 15 inches of rain. Nearly 600,000 customers in Louisiana were without power on Saturday morning, with thousands more reported in Texas and Mississippi.
A television station in Lafayette asked its viewers to send in their accounts of Delta’s toll. Many said they could hear transformers popping through the night and others sent in videos of carports wavering in the wind. Sheds had been picked up and tossed, they said, and bricks had been shorn from a building in downtown Lafayette.
“I’m afraid for daylight to see the damage out there,” one woman who rode out the storm in her home in Rayne, a small town west of Lafayette, wrote in a post on Saturday on the Facebook page of KATC-TV. “We have a tree blocking our back door and we don’t even have trees on our property.”
On Saturday, lots of homes around Lafayette saw near misses of fallen tree limbs, severed branches and uprooted water oaks. A chorus of sirens and chain saws whirred throughout the day.
John Dean, 31, saw a bulky branch rip off the trunk of a pine tree 10 feet from his house and crack onto the corner of an awning, unseating nails and wood paneling. The wind ripped through his block of St. Charles Street, on Lafayette’s north side, but scattered only a few branches in his neighbor’s yard. Neither Mr. Dean, who lives with his 9-year-old son, nor his neighbor, Ricky Blackwell, 65, thought about leaving ahead of the storm.
“It costs too much. If I would have gone out of town, I’d come back to this tree and have no money to pay for a chain saw,” Mr. Dean said. He kicked a post holding the awning back into place and went back to raking leaves.
In Lake Arthur, a waterfront town of some 2,000 people between Lake Charles and Lafayette, Ms. Palermo, 64, was trying to pick up trash that the gusts had scattered. Shingles were missing from both her hotel and her home, and the electricity was out.
“I’m tired, but I’ll make it,” said Ms. Palermo, who is also a registered nurse who works night shifts. “It has not been a fun year.”
Rick Rojas reported from Jennings, La., and Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio from New York. Christiaan Mader contributed reporting from Lafayette, La.