BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Gov. John Bel Edwards is once again urging Louisianans to “prepare for the worst and pray for the best” as another major hurricane appears headed for the state.
Edwards declared a state of emergency Tuesday ahead of Hurricane Delta, which is forecast to make landfall in South Louisiana on Friday or Saturday.
Hurricane Delta is currently a Category 4 storm after strengthening Tuesday morning and will enter into the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, with wind speeds greater than 130 miles per hour. While it is currently projected to weaken a bit before landfall, it may be a Category 3 storm and significant impacts are expected.
Edwards said the National Weather Service is confident “that a hurricane is going to strike the state of Louisiana this week.” While the current trajectory is generally headed toward the Morgan City area, Edwards called on people not to focus on the category of the storm or the center of the projection cone, since the entire state is in that cone and the storm could shift as it heads into the Gulf of Mexico.
“Don’t worry about the category, it is going to be a major hurricane,” Edwards said in a briefing Tuesday afternoon on the state’s preparations, calling Delta an “incredibly dangerous storm that will bring heavy winds, rain and life-threatening flooding and storm surge to coastal Louisiana.”
Meteorologist-in-Charge Benjamin Schott with the National Weather Service in New Orleans said the entire Louisiana coastline is “in play” with Hurricane Delta. While some weakening is expected when Delta moves over the Yucatan Peninsula, it’s expected to re-strengthen again when it moves over the warm waters of the Gulf. Schott said they will have a better feel for where the storm will head once it reaches the Gulf.
“Look, I know that another hurricane, another challenge, another disaster, another emergency is the last thing any of us wanted to face this season. This season has been relentless. In fact, since early March, it just seems like one thing after another. But the fact of the matter is, we don’t get to pick and choose. This is the hand that we have been dealt. What we get to decide is how we play our hand. And we have to start playing it right now.”
State and local officials in coastal areas were shoring up levees, sandbagging and taking other protection measures Tuesday, Edwards said. He also expects to have submitted a pre-landfall emergency declaration request to President Donald Trump before the next briefing planned for Wednesday afternoon.
Mandatory evacuations are expected to be ordered in low-lying, unprotected areas with the next few days, according to Edwards. He said he does not expect any major mandatory evacuations to be ordered for those living inside protected areas.
Still, he warned that everyone in South Louisiana should pay close attention to the weather in the coming days and heed the advice and directions of their local officials.
“Now is the time to make preparations for Delta’s impacts. All of Louisiana’s coast is in the tracking cone, and we are well aware that impacts can be felt outside of the track,” Edwards said.
“We have seen an active hurricane season already, with a devastating hit in Southwest Louisiana from Hurricane Laura. It would be a mistake for anyone in Louisiana to let down their guard. Be prepared.”
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Louisiana is still recovering from Hurricane Laura, which ravaged the southwest region as it roared ashore as a Category 4 storm in August. During Tuesday’s briefing, Edwards said there are still more than 6,000 evacuees sheltering in hotels, mostly in the New Orleans area, because their homes are too heavily damaged to return. He said the Department of Children and Family Services is working with the Red Cross to consolidate the number of hotels being used as non-congregant shelters from more than 40 down to 12.
While it’s too early to say what the plan is because the exact path of the latest hurricane is not yet known, Edwards said anyone requiring evacuation from Hurricane Delta will be sheltered in hotels in Louisiana if at all possible.
Edwards also touched on the state’s coronavirus response, noting that he expects to have an update on Thursday regarding the current Phase 3 order governing restrictions for reopening the state’s economy. The order is set to expire Friday.
The governor also warned that the state will once again be dealing with the ongoing coronavirus public health emergency while also continuing to recover from Hurricane Laura and bracing for Hurricane Delta and reiterated the importance of continuing to take measures to mitigate the spread of the virus.