Hurricane Delta weakened steadily on Friday after churning into a corner of southwestern Louisiana repeatedly battered by storms this year, sending residents scurrying out of harm’s way and disrupting Gulf Coast energy production.
Delta made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, packing maximum sustained winds of 100 miles per hour (161 kph), at 6 p.m. on Friday near the town of Creole, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported.
Within hours, its sustained winds had diminished to 75 mph (120 kph) and it was on the verge of being downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm.
The centre of Delta was on track to drift across central and northeastern Louisiana on Friday night and Saturday morning before moving into northern Mississippi and the Tennessee Valley, the NHC said.
Streets were deserted in the nearby city of Lake Charles as residents fled, filling hotels or taking shelter away from the path of the Delta, which struck weeks after Hurricane Laura ploughed ashore as a Category 3 storm in late August.
“In this community, there are a lot of homes that were damaged (by Laura), and so a lot of people are concerned about staying in that structure again,” Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said in an interview.
Laura, which came ashore with 150-mph (241-kph) winds, “is still very fresh and very raw and I think that had something to do with more people evacuating for Delta,” Hunter added.
Schools and government offices were closed and officials in a dozen parishes called for evacuations. Residents boarded up windows, sandbagged doors and moved out of the storm’s path.
Energy companies cut back petroleum production in the Gulf of Mexico by about 92%, or 1.7 million barrels per day, by Friday midday, the most since 2005, when Hurricane Katrina destroyed more than 100 offshore platforms and hobbled output for months.