Thousands of National Guard troops, utility workers and other emergency responders were readying Friday for a response to Hurricane Delta that was expected to be complicated by its route through storm-battered southwest Louisiana, as the latest storm started making its presence felt along the coast.
Officials were preparing for search-and-rescue missions with high water vehicles, boats and aircraft. Guard troops were staffing warehouses as tarps, food and water flowed in. Convoys of trucks were preparing to fan out to more than a dozen distribution sites once the storm passed.
“Louisiana guard is ready. We have over 2,500 soldiers and airmen who are in place and we’re ready to respond when called upon,” said National Guard Brigadier General Lee Hopkins.
Hurricane Delta has prompted preparations from people across coastal Louisiana. That includes the Louisiana National Guard.
And as the storm began hammering the coast Friday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state’s main location for evacuees, a mega-shelter in Alexandria, had already reached capacity after 800 people sought government help in fleeing southwest Louisiana, most of them heading from Calcasieu to Alexandria on state buses.
The number of beds in the shelter, which typically holds thousands, had to be lessened to allow for social distancing. Edwards said additional evacuees were being taken to shelters in Bastrop and possibly Shreveport.
After the storm passes, those evacuees will either return home, if possible, or head to state-provided hotels, Edwards said. But it was too early to say how many hotels would be needed or whether the state would need to find more. Jim Waskom, head of the governor’s emergency department, said the state still had access to more than 3,000 hotels in the New Orleans area.
“We really don’t know until we see the amount of damage that was sustained from Hurricane Delta,” Edwards said. “We don’t anticipate, right now, that we’ll get to such a large number that we won’t be able to house them in non-congregate shelters.”
“We don’t expect these individuals to be in the congregate shelters for more than 24 hours at the longest,” Edwards said.
Delta was weakening some as it prepared to make landfall sometime Friday evening, likely as a Category 2 storm. The storm is projected to tack northeast as it makes landfall.
The state suspended much of its community coronavirus testing because of the storm, but Edwards said he hopes to get it back up and running by Monday.
In all, more than 9,000 Louisianans were being sheltered as of Friday, Edwards said. About 6,300 of those were Laura evacuees being sheltered in Louisiana, more than 2,000 were Laura evacuees in Texas and about 800 were those who fled Delta.
About 6,500 utility workers were stationed in Louisiana to turn power back on after the storm, and another 7,000 were on standby outside of the state, Edwards said.
Heavy rainfall was already falling in Louisiana and Texas Friday morning as rain bands moved inland, and parts of metro Baton Rouge flooded the previous night.