Louisiana steeled itself on Thursday for another in a record-breaking series of violent storms as Hurricane Delta sped across the Gulf of Mexico toward a corner of the state still recovering from the last storm.
Delta's size grew and its winds intensified over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday. Its winds are expected to reach up to 115 miles per hour (185 kmh) before losing some punch Friday over cooler waters along the Gulf Coast.
Lisa Mire and three friends, all former teachers, took shelter from a light rain falling on Morgan City to pray for former colleagues facing the COVID-19 pandemic. The storm lent added urgency to the group's regular get-together, she said.
The storm is expected to strike near Creole, Louisiana, with winds of 105 mph, a category 2 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale. It could unleash tornadoes as it moves over land. Delta threatens to drop up to 10 inches (25 cm) of rain and drive a 4- to 11-foot (1.2-3.3 meters) storm surge, the National Hurricane Center said.
However, if Delta increases on Thursday at its current, rapid rate, it could gain enough strength to slam the coast as a borderline major hurricane, said AccuWeather meteorologist Dan Kottlowski.
New Orleans likely will escape the storm and experience gusty winds and mild rain, said Kottlowski, with Lafayette the largest city on the storm's eastern and more dangerous side.
Energy companies concerned about Delta have halted some oil and natural gas exports, evacuated 183 offshore oil facilities and cut production at one refinery. The U.S. Coast Guard warned shippers of impending gale force winds from Port Arthur, Texas, to New Orleans.
"We have today to prepare ourselves and our families for the arrival of Hurricane Delta," Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards told residents. "Let's make it count."
The state asked for an received a federal emergency declaration, he said, making additional resources available.
Southwestern Louisiana took the brunt of September's Hurricane Laura's fierce winds and storm surge. There are about 8,000 people still living in hotel rooms as a result of the devastation to homes in the southwest of the state from by Laura, Edwards said on Wednesday.
When Delta reaches the northern Gulf Coast, it will be the 10th named storm to make a U.S. landfall this year, eclipsing a record that has held since 1916.