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Tropical Storm Laura: Mass power outages in Louisiana and Texas; 6 dead

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Aug. 27 (UPI) — Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses were without electricity in Louisiana and Texas on Thursday and at least six people died after Tropical Storm Laura arrived on land as a major hurricane.

Laura made landfall near Cameron, La., early Thursday as a Category 4 hurricane. The National Hurricane Center had warned of a potentially catastrophic impact and “unsurvivable” storm surge created by the hurricane.

Laura weakened to a Category 2 storm almost immediately after moving over land, and was later downgraded to a tropical storm.

Laura produced winds of 150 mph when it arrived. In Lake Charles, which was in Laura’s direct path, there were reports of damage and debris in the downtown area — but no severe flooding, which had been a major concern for the area since it’s 15 feet above sea level.

The White House said Thursday President Donald Trump is committed to “deploying the full resources of the federal government to rescue those in distress, support those in the region affected and restore disruptions to our communities and infrastructure.”

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence visited the Federal Emergency Management Agency National Response Coordination to monitor Laura’s path along the Gulf Coast.

“This team forward deployed resources,” Pence said. “We were ready for the worst and by all accounts from the experts, while this was obviously a major storm with devastating impact, it was not as bad as it could have been.”

Trump said he considered postponing his speech to close the Republican National Convention to Monday in order to survey damage in Texas, Lousiana and perhaps Arkansas, but said he intends to instead travel to those states as soon as this weekend.

“We got a little bit lucky,” Trump said. “It was very big, it was very powerful. But it passed quickly and so everything’s on schedule.

When Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana in 2005, it caused widespread catastrophic flooding due to the state’s low elevation.

Other areas, including Lafayette, La., saw some flooding after Laura passed through.

A New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter tweeted that mobile homes in Lake Charles were “shredded,” roofs were torn off and trailers thrown around.

PowerOutage.us showed nearly 900,000 customers in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas were without electricity by early Thursday afternoon.

“Power is out pretty much everywhere,” Calcasieu Parish spokesman Thomas Hoefer said. “We may get water in but it’s not here now. Cameron is dealing with the surge; we are dealing with the wind.”

City and state leaders had warned before Laura’s arrival that it could take several days to restore power to the affected areas, particularly with added precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At least six people have died in the storm. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards told reporters at a news conference Thursday that a 14-year-old girl was killed, and Edwards’ Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness said two others died in Acadia and Jackson parishes. Details were unclear on the location of the fourth fatality.

All four were killed by falling trees.

A 24-year-old man in Calcasieu Parish also died of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a generator inside his home and another male drowned during the storm when his boat sank, according to a Louisiana health department spokesperson, the New York Times reported.

“As we wake up today, everyone must remember that the threat Laura poses to Louisiana is ongoing,” Edwards tweeted earlier. “Stay home, continue to heed the warnings and instructions of local officials and monitor your local news to stay informed.”

A chemical fire erupted in Westlake, La., less than 5 miles west of Lake Charles, and state troopers closed nearby Interstate 10.

“Residents are advised to shelter in place until further notice and close your doors and windows,” Edwards tweeted.

Storm chaser Brandon Clement of WXChasing posted video of wind toppling a recreational vehicle and WKRG-TV broadcast footage of a badly damaged home in Lake Charles.

A video shot by storm chaser Reed Timmer showed a powerful winds battering the Lake Charles Convention Center as Laura moved through the city in the pre-dawn hours.

One user posted a tweet early Thursday that showed high winds destroying a Wendy’s restaurant sign.

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