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'Traumatized' Lake Charles, Louisiana, braces for Hurricane Delta after Laura's destruction

”I think really the word is disbelief. Like how could this be happening again?" one resident said.
Image: Hurricane Laura aftermath Lake Charles, Louisiana
Aftermath of Hurricane Laura in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Aug. 30.Dave Creaney / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images file

Residents of Lake Charles, Louisiana, still reeling from the devastation of a powerful storm just six weeks ago, braced for another strike as Hurricane Delta gained in strength and size Thursday over the Gulf of Mexico.

“It’s just a lot. Emotionally, I think everybody’s just battered and worn down right now,” Lake Charles resident Kerry Anderson told NBC affiliate KPRC2. Her home was badly damaged in late August by the powerful Category 4 Hurricane Laura.

Anderson is renting a home in Baton Rouge but returned to Lake Charles to gather some belongings before the next hurricane hits, the station reported.

With Lake Charles still in the midst of recovery from Laura, Anderson was struggling to come to terms with the fact that the city could be badly beaten again.

”I think really the word is disbelief. Like how could this be happening again?" Anderson said.

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.

The Lake Charles area is expected to get hit with tropical-storm force winds starting at about noon Friday.

On Wednesday, Calcasieu Parish, which includes the city of Lake Charles, issued a mandatory evacuation order.

John Cardone, the city administrator for Lake Charles, told NBC News on Thursday that more than 95 percent of buildings in the city sustained some type of damage, ranging from being completely demolished to leaking roofs.

“A lot of our citizens have been traumatized by Laura, and to have to face this event just a little over 40 days after Hurricane Laura is huge,” he said. “What they’re predicting is Hurricane Delta is within 15-30 miles from Hurricane Laura, so it’s coming very close to the same location.”

Many residences and commercial buildings in the city still had temporary roofs, he said.

Image: Hurricane Laura aftermath Lake Charles, Louisiana
Aftermath of Hurricane Laura in Lake Charles, La., on Aug. 30, 2020.Dave Creaney / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images file

“That means it doesn’t have to be a Category 4 hurricane to do damage,” he said.

The city picked up some 1.5 million cubic yards of debris after Laura, but officials remained concerned about vegetation and construction debris along roadways.

“It doesn’t take a strong wing to start throwing that out there and creating issues for other buildings and for people,” he said.

The potentially dangerous debris, plus the damaged buildings were the rationale behind the evacuation order, he said.

Still, he hoped to send a message of hope to local residents.

“I say this about the people of Lake Charles, we’re pretty resilient,” he said. “We’re working as a team, we’re preparing for it and we’re going to do what we can to get Lake Charles back on track."

Lake Charles resident Stephen Guillory told KPRC2 he was preparing to evacuate ahead of the hurricane.

“My wife is getting worried about the windows. So we were trying to put some plywood on them to keep them safe,” Guillory said. “Things were just starting to get back to normal when this storm was coming our way.”

Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso urged people on Wednesday to remain calm and heed warnings from local authorities.

“We have all gone through this for the last six weeks, and here we are having to possibly deal with it again, but I want everyone to take a deep breath and stay calm and relax,” he said in a video posted to social media. “These are very trying times. This has been one of the most challenging years in all aspects that we’ve ever dealt with, but it's not over. We still have challenges to overcome.

“All of us are committed to getting this parish back up and running like it was before the storm,” he said.

Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday declared a state of emergency, which President Donald Trump approved.

“Let us not forget that southwest Louisiana is still recovering from Hurricane Laura," Edwards said at a news conference Wednesday. "There are still a lot of structures with significant damage.

"Of course we don’t want a hurricane to hit anywhere, but we know that the area that is least prepared and ready for a storm happens to be southwest Louisiana.”

Hurricane Laura destroyed over 10,000 homes across the state and brought major damage to 35,000 homes, moderate damage to 38,000 and minor damage to 58,000, Edwards said, citing assessments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“This is the reality that many homeowners are facing as we prepare for Delta, obviously not a very good situation,” he said.

As of Wednesday morning, 6,038 people were still sheltering in hotel rooms in the state, with another roughly 2,000 people sheltering in hotel rooms in Texas, he said.