About eight million people are under a Flash Flood watch as Laura makes its way through the Mid-South, bringing with it threats of heavy rainfall and isolated tornadoes.
Early Friday morning, Laura crossed Arkansas and trekked toward southeastern Missouri as a tropical depression with winds of 35mph. In preparation for the storm, Arkansas predeployed search and rescue teams along with National Guard members to assist.
Throughout the day, the storm will head across Kentucky and continue eastward until it heads off the coast through New Jersey and Delaware by Saturday evening.
Laura’s expected to dump up to 6 inches of rain over central and northern Arkansas Friday, while parts of southern Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri may see isolated rain totals of up to 5 inches.
The rain may likely lead to flash flooding along streams, roads and urban areas and to moderate river flooding in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas, the National Hurricane Center said.
‘Like a week out of a bad science-fiction novel’
Laura made landfall early Thursday near Cameron, Louisiana, as a Category 4 hurricane, packing winds of about 150 mph. Areas across the coast were pounded by ferocious winds and an unforgiving storm surge that left some neighborhoods littered with debris.
“#Laura has left hazards like flooded roads, downed power lines and displaced wildlife in our communities that no one should take lightly,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said on Twitter late Thursday. “Everyone needs to remain vigilant and be safe.”
At least six deaths were reported across the state following the storm. Four died after trees fell: a 14-year-old girl in Vernon Parish; a 51-year-old man in Jackson Parish; a 60-year-old man in Acadia Parish; and a 64-year-old man in Allen Parish, authorities have said.
Two died in Calcasieu Parish: A 24-year-old man and another male who’s age wasn’t disclosed by the state health department.
In a message following the storm, Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said in a Facebook post late Thursday the last “24 hours have felt like a week out of a bad science fiction novel.”
Water plants were damaged, the mayor said, and there is “barely a trickle of water coming out of most faucets” across homes in Lakes Charles, along with widespread power outages.
“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,” the mayor wrote. “‘Look and Leave’ truly is the best option for many.”
‘I’ve never seen this kind of damage’
Across the state, many who evacuated ahead of the storm are afraid of what they may find when they return to their homes. The storm battered communities, damaging roofs and walls, ripping street signs from the ground, snapping trees and bending lamp posts.
In Lafayette, Louisiana, Brandon Montgomery’s home was spared from flooding and wind damage Thursday. But his neighbor wasn’t as lucky: at least a foot of water flooded their home.
Flooding in their neighborhood began overnight Thursday and by Thursday morning, the water had risen to about 3 feet high.
In Lake Charles, which was hit hard by the vicious storm, some buildings were left to nothing but scraps of wood, CNN affiliate WVUE reported.
Latoyia Jackson and her sister told the affiliate they were urged by their family to evacuate as the storm made its way to their community. The two have seen pictures of the community and Jackson now says she fears she’ll go back and find that “everything is gone.”
In downtown Lake Charles, two residents told WVUE they couldn’t find a single person to talk to amid the devastation.
“I’ve never seen this kind of damage,” one resident said. Footage of the city shows store signs on the floor, shattered windows, destroyed tents and debris all over the roads.
“There’s a lot of damage. People are going to need a lot of help around here,” says Paul Heard, who was in Lake Charles as the storm came in. Heard says he left his house and took shelter in his car just as the storm was pulling parts of the roof early Thursday.
As he watched from 25 feet away, he “could see my roof was heaving up and down several inches,” he told CNN.
“The heavy rainfall threat and flash and urban flooding potential will spread northeastward into the middle-Mississippi, lower Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, and Mid-Atlantic States Friday and Saturday,” the center said.
Parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi are at the highest risk for tornadoes Friday, while that risk will shift to Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware and parts of Pennsylvania Saturday.
More than 500,000 customers didn’t have power in Louisiana early Friday and more than 200,000 were in the dark in Texas, according to poweroutage.us
8 million Americans are under a Flash Flood Watch as Tropical Depression Laura treks through Mid-South.
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