UPDATE: Laura victims may go weeks without power; deaths climb to 14

Louisiana News

Neftali Luna surveys damages to the children’s wing of the First Pentecostal Church caused by Hurricane Laura, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, in Orange, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — The death toll from Hurricane Laura more than doubled Friday to at least 14 as communities began cleaning up along the devastated Louisiana coastline where hundreds of thousands of people were still without power or water — a situation that officials said could persist for weeks or longer.

People survey the damage left in the wake of Hurricane Laura Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, in Holly Beach, La. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The death toll rose after authorities reported that a Texas man was killed when the Category 4 hurricane sent a tree crashing into his home near the Louisiana border. Four other people, all in the same residence, died from carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator. Six deaths were reported Thursday in Louisiana, where the outlook was grim for thousands of evacuated residents eager to return.

“We need help,” said Lawrence “Lee” Faulk, 57, who returned to a home with no roof in hard-hit Cameron Parish, which was littered with downed power lines. “We need ice, water, blue tarps — everything that you would associate with the storm, we need it. Like two hours ago.”

In Lake Charles, Mayor Nic Hunter cautioned that there was no timetable for restoring electricity and that water-treatment plants “took a beating,” resulting in barely a trickle of water coming out of most faucets in the city of 80,000 people.

The windows of the Capitol One Tower are blown out after Hurricane Laura made landfall as a Category 4 storm Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020 in Lake Charles, La. (Hilary Scheinuk/The Advocate via AP)

“If you come back to Lake Charles to stay, make sure you understand the above reality and are prepared to live in it for many days, probably weeks,” Hunter wrote on Facebook.

“’Look and Leave’ truly is the best option for many,” he added.

Several hospitals were evacuating critical patients to other facilities because of water and power issues, the state health department said. Other hospitals were operating on intermittent generator power.

Forty nursing homes also relied on generators, and assessments were underway to determine if more than 860 residents in 11 facilities that had been evacuated could return. Water outages remained a major problem in evacuated facilities, the Louisiana Department of Health said.

President Donald Trump planned to visit the Gulf Coast this weekend to tour the damage.

Benjamin Luna helps recover items from the children’s wing of the First Pentecostal Church that was destroyed by Hurricane Laura, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, in Orange, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Meanwhile, the hurricane’s remnants threatened to bring flooding and tornadoes to Tennessee as the storm, now a tropical depression, drifted north. Forecasters warned that the system could strengthen into a tropical storm again upon returning to the Atlantic Ocean this weekend.

As the grueling recovery came into focus, short bursts of rain heaped new misery onto homes missing windows and roofs. The prevailing sense of relief that Laura, one of the most powerful hurricanes to strike the U.S., was not as brutal as originally feared offered little comfort to people cleaning up the mess.

In the storm’s wake, more than 600,000 homes and businesses were without power in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility reports.

The Louisiana Department of Health estimated that more than 220,000 people were without water.

“We think there are going to be people who realize relatively quickly that either they can’t stay in their homes or can’t go back to their homes,” said Christina Stephens, a spokeswoman for Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.

A building is left damaged by Hurricane Laura, Thursday Aug. 27, 2020, in Lake Charles, La. (Bill Feig/The Advocate via AP, Pool)

Restoration of those services could take weeks or months, and full rebuilding could take years.

In Lake Charles, Ira Lyles returned to find that his downtown salon called The Parlor House survived with little damage, but his home was destroyed.

“It tore the front off, tore the front of the roof off, picked up my camper trailer and hit the side wall, and the side wall buckled and cracked inside,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a wash.”

As Louisiana began cleaning up, Laura’s remnants delivered heavy rain and strong winds to Memphis, Tennessee, and knocked out electricity. Flash flood watches were in effect throughout western Tennessee.

Laura’s arrival on Thursday inundated entire neighborhoods on or and near the Gulf Coast. In the aftermath, twisted sheets of metal and downed trees and power lines cluttered nearly every street. Caravans of utility trucks were met Friday by thunderstorms in the sizzling heat, complicating recovery efforts.

Louisiana National Guard helps people who sought shelter out of a vehicle on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, in Lake Charles, La., in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Edwards called Laura, which packed a top wind speed of 150 mph (241 kph), the most powerful hurricane to strike Louisiana, meaning it surpassed even Katrina, which was a Category 3 storm when it hit in 2005.

Four people were killed by falling trees in Louisiana. A man died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator inside his residence, and another man drowned in a boat that sank during the storm, authorities said.

More than 580,000 coastal residents were put under evacuation as the hurricane gained strength in the Gulf of Mexico. Laura was the seventh named storm to strike the U.S. this year, setting a new record for U.S. landfalls by the end of August. Laura hit the U.S. after killing nearly two dozen people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

“There’s people without homes,” said Stanley Hazelton, who rode out the storm on the bathroom floor of his Lake Charles home, where a tree punctured his roof. “So it was dumb. We’ll never do it again. We’ll never stay through another hurricane again.”

___

Associated Press contributors include Jamie Stengle in Dallas; Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans; John L. Mone in Holly Beach, Louisiana; Paul J. Weber in Austin, Texas; Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland; and Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee.

**A previous version of this article said the death toll was at 11. Officials have updated that number.

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