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Category 3 Storm Hurricane Delta Heads To Louisiana

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The 10th hurricane of this season is Hurricane Delta. In this era of climate change, the storm is arriving in southwestern Louisiana, which Hurricane Laura hit just six weeks ago. NPR's John Burnett is watching from Lafayette, La. John, good morning.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: Morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What have you been seeing where you are?

BURNETT: Well, it's just a light breeze right now in the neighborhood I'm staying here down in Lafayette. The only noise has been from the hurricane party going on down the street from students of the University of Louisiana. We're expecting tropical storm-force winds to start later this morning. I'm about 35 miles from Vermilion Bay, which connects to the Gulf, so we should get some pretty good wind here. There have been voluntary evacuations in most of the parishes in south Louisiana that make up Acadiana. That's the homeland of the Cajun people, some of the best fishermen and oilfield workers and crawfish farmers in the country. You go west and the evacuations are mandatory because those are the places that were walloped by Hurricane Laura on August 27, which so far was the costliest storm in 2020. Delta's eye is projected to pass just a few miles east of Lake Charles, which took a direct hit from Laura and the city's barely recovered.

INSKEEP: Well, how is the city of Lake Charles doing this time?

BURNETT: Well, I was driving from Texas into Louisiana last night, and I pulled off the highway to take a look around to talk to folks. And, man, the last thing Lake Charles needs is another destructive storm. You still see blue tarps on house tops where Laura tore off the roofs. You see these great big oak trees and debris and limbs all piled on the curbs. None of it's been picked up yet. City officials say more than 90% of the structures there sustained some type of damage from minor leaks to total destruction. I met the Baca family. They were on their front porches last night planning to evacuate to Houston this morning. Jose Baca, a barber, says Laura tore off the roof of his historic house, and he's got a tarp over it right now, and he expects more violent winds this evening.

JOSE BACA: Yeah, yeah, there's a good possibility of that, of the tarp being ripped off and starting all over again, getting more water in the house. I got water in my house from the front door to back door, you know. Damn. Here we go again (laughter).

BURNETT: Yeah. And speaking of evacuations, last night, Interstate 10 westbound was a parking lot with thousands of vehicles fleeing south Louisiana. Here is Jose's sister-in-law, Jill Baca. She's a teacher's aide.

JILL BACA: It's exhausting. I'm thinking about all the people who are actually on the road right now trying to get to their destination. I'm hearing stories about people who have been on the road for eight hours and they've only gotten, you know, as far as Beaumont. That part of it's scary.

INSKEEP: John, I just want to mention, we said 10 hurricanes this season. There have been a bunch of tropical storms and other things, of course - six big storm to hit Louisiana this season in this era of climate change. But there was a vice presidential debate this week. Wednesday night, Mike Pence, the vice president, said there are no more hurricanes now than 100 years ago. Is that true?

BURNETT: Well, he's correct when he says that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports when accounting for improved monitoring, the number of Atlantic hurricanes in the late 1800s and today is similar. But here's what the vice president didn't tell you. NOAA also says, since the 1970s, sea surface temperatures have steadily risen, and as a result, these tropical cyclones have gotten more intense. NOAA says the number of Category 4s and 5s will likely continue to increase over this century. The storms will carry more rainfall, more destructive potential. And we're about to have a ringside seat to that with Hurricane Delta.

INSKEEP: NPR's John Burnett in Lafayette, La. Be safe, John.

BURNETT: It's a pleasure, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.