15 dead in Louisiana, Texas, after Hurricane Laura batters region
The death toll attributed to former Hurricane Laura rose to 15 Friday as Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards asked the federal government for immediate financial assistance.
Of the deaths, 10 were in Louisiana and five in Texas. Some of the deaths were thought to be from carbon monoxide poisoning from generators, officials said.
Edwards formally asked President Donald Trump to declare a federal disaster for 23 parishes in the state, which would free up Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance. President Donald Trump approved the request for a disaster declaration.
Trump plans to travel to Louisiana and Texas on Saturday, the White House said.
“Hurricane Laura is the fifth strongest storm to make landfall in the United States in recorded history and the first in memory to maintain major hurricane strength as it traveled through Louisiana, bringing catastrophic destruction to many parishes,” Edwards said in a statement.
He said at a news conference that Laura was “the strongest storm to ever hit Louisiana.”
Edwards said five people in his state died from carbon monoxide poisoning from gas-powered emergency generators, four from trees falling on homes and one who drowned while using a boat.
In Texas, a Sabine County man was killed when a tree hit a mobile home, and three people died in Port Arthur, possibly from carbon monoxide poisoning, authorities said.
Police in Beaumont, Texas, which is north of Port Arthur, said they were investigating the death of a 61-year-old man found Friday as a suspected generator-related death, and urged people to put generators in a safe location. An autopsy has been scheduled.
Eighty-two water systems across Louisiana were incapacitated by the storm, Edwards said.
Laura struck the coast of Louisiana near the Texas border as a Category 4 hurricane early Thursday with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour.
An estimated 8,000 homes were possibly destroyed in the two states, and more than 14,000 people sought shelter from the Red Cross and other agencies, the Red Cross said. Edwards said more than 3,000 people in Louisiana found shelter in hotels.
As of early Friday evening 485,192 utility customers were without power in Louisiana; in Texas that figure was 106,801.
FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor called Laura a storm “unlike no other.”
“What we see so far is wind driven damaged structures and buildings, lots of power down, lots of trees down,” he said. “So, this would be a process to open up access so we can get restoration crews back in on the streets.”
Sheriff Tony Mancuso of the hard-hit Calcasieu Parish in Louisiana said at a news conference Friday damage to his community was “catastrophic.”
“It’s very dangerous out here,” he said. “We’re all hot and sweaty and don’t have services we would normally have. People need to be patient. Catastrophic damage because of the storm—dangerous road conditions that are not safe.”
A storm surge as high as 20 feet that was forecast for coastal areas of Louisiana near the Texas border did not materialize. The U.S. Coast Guard Friday afternoon closed its Hurricane Laura Area Command Information Center.
“I don’t know how by the grace of god the water didn’t reach the intensity it was supposed to because that would’ve been a lot more catastrophic,” Mancuso said.
Laura, which has since weakened to a tropical depression, was about 110 miles east-northeast of Paducah, Kentucky, at 11 p.m. ET, the National Hurricane Center said.
Flash flood watches were in effect for parts of Tennessee, northeast Mississippi and northwestern Alabama Friday night, according to the National Weather Service.
The remnants of Laura were headed east at about 24 mph and were expected to bring heavy rain and gusty winds Friday night through Saturday to the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic, according to the weather service.