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6 Reported Deaths, Chemical Fire Burning In Aftermath Of Hurricane Laura


Hurricane Laura made landfall as a Category 4 storm along the western coast of Louisiana and upper coast of Texas overnight bringing storm surge, intense winds and widespread power outages to the area. 

We'll update here as Laura moves north Thursday.

5 p.m. Thursday

The Calcasieu Parish coronor has confirmed two more deaths as a result of Hurricane Laura, according to GOHSEP Communications Director Mike Steele. 

A 24-year-old man died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator in his home. Another man drowned when the boat he was on sank during the storm. His body has not yet been recovered and his identity is unknown.

In all, six people have been reported dead.

4:15 p.m. Thursday

The flood watch and tornado watch in the New Orleans area have ended, NOLAReady reports.

Neutral ground parking in New Orleans ends tomorrow morming. 

2 p.m. Thursday

During the governor's 1 p.m. press conference, State Fire Marshall Butch Browning said no chlorine was detected in the air from the fire at BioLab Inc., but that "those chemicals are falling in the lake."

Browning also said he is unaware of anyone reporting symptoms of chlorine gas exposure, which would be respiratory distress.

You can read our full, developing story on the fire here.

1:20 p.m. Thursday

A portion of I-10 is closed because the barge holding the Isle of Capri Casino broke free of its moorings and got wedged under the interstate bridge, Gov. Edwards said in a press conference.

Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) crews are inspecting the bridge.

Shawn Wilson, secretary of the DOTD, said the barge has been removed.

Gov. Edwards also reported that four people are dead and about 600,000 service locations around Louisiana are without power as a result of Hurricane Laura.

The area directly hit by the storm saw 9 to 12 feet of storm surge — significantly less than the expected 20 feet. One caveat: some gauges in Cameron Parish failed after measuring a 12-foot surge.

The lower-than-expected surge was due in large part to the storm changing course at the last minute and not passing directly over the Calcasieu Ship Channel.

There are about 2,100 people in shelters across Louisiana, and about 1,900 of those are shelters are hotels or motels furnished by the state, the governor said. The rest are in congregate shelters with social distancing measures in place to guard against the spread of COVID.

1:15 p.m. Thursday

Parts of I-10 are closed, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development said.

I-10 eastbound is closed at the Texas-Louisiana state line, and I-10 westbound is closed west of the Atchafalaya Basin.

The department advised drivers to detour by using the US 61, I-55 and I-59 highways, and travel north to connect with 1-20. It’s advising people to use “extreme caution” when driving through hazardous weather in the wake of Hurricane Laura.

Drivers can check the latest road conditions at or dial 511 from mobile phones.

12:40 p.m. Thursday

Laura has weakened into a tropical storm, according to the National Hurricane Center.

As of noon, the storm was about 50 miles east-southeast of Shreveport, with maximum sustained winds at 70 mph.

Credit NOAA

12:30 p.m. Thursday

New Orleans remains under a tornado watch today as the remnants of Hurricane Laura cover Louisiana.

The main threat to the city right now is flooding from heavy rain, said Collin Arnold, the director of the city’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, at a noon press conference.

Forecasts show 1 to 4 inches of rain per hour this afternoon. Arnold said all of the city’s 99 major pumps are active, according to the Sewage and Water Board. Residents can still move their cars to higher ground and parking restrictions remain lifted.

The city is offering aid to surrounding parishes hit hard by Laura, Arnold said. Search-and-rescue teams have alerted the State Fire Marshall’s Office that they’re ready to assist, but haven’t yet been assigned a mission.

About 800 evacuees are being housed in hotels across the city, Arnold said. He predicted the greatest need in the coming days will be for search and rescue, law enforcement and security, and services for those who are displaced, such as medication, food, clothing toiletries, and hygiene kits.

Noon Thursday

Hurricane Laura continues to weaken as it moves further inland, the National Weather Service reports.

“Our main concern today will be potential for heavy rainfall,” the New Orleans-Baton Rouge office tweeted, and warming air this afternoon could “reinvigorate” storms.

Storms moving through the New Orleans metro area over the next couple of hours will bring heavy rainfall and could lead to street flooding. Short-lived and fast-moving tornadoes are also possible along the trailing bands of Laura.

“Tide levels appear to have peaked at most local tide gauges and should continue to fall slowly after high tide,” the NWS added. “Minor to moderate coastal flooding will remain possible, with the greatest impacts expected west of Port Fourchon.”

11 a.m. Thursday

A 60-year-old man died when a tree fell on the house he was in during Hurricane Laura. The Acadia Parish coroner confirmed the death, GOHSEP Communications Director Mike Steele said in an email.

The coroner also confirmed another death considered to be storm-related, but no further information was made available.

So far, three Laura-related deaths have been confirmed.

9:45 a.m. Thursday

A video posted by the Cajun Navy on Facebook shows a dark cloud rising over Lake Charles.

"Fire on the west side of the lake. Gasses crossing I-10," the caption says.

The Governor's Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management (GOHSEP) confirms there is a fire in Lake Charles, Calcasieu Parish officials are investigating. Louisiana State Police's Lake Charles Troop D confirms that hazmat is responding to a chemical fire in Westlake.

The Cajun Navy, as well as The Times Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate reporter Bryn Stole, report that I-10 has been shut down.

We'll update here as we learn more.

9 a.m. Thursday

Hurricane Laura, now a Category 1 storm, is less than 70 miles from Shreveport, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Maximum sustained winds are at 85 mph and storm surge continues along the coast.

A storm surge warning and a tropical storm warning are in effect from High Island, Texas, to the mouth of the Mississippi River.

A flash flood watch is in effect across Louisiana, and a tornado watch is in effect in New Orleans and other eastern parishes.

Credit National Weather Service
National Weather Service

8:30 a.m. Thursday

A 14-year-old girl died when a tree fell on her family’s home in Leesville as Hurricane Laura made landfall, Gov. John Bel Edwards said on MSNBC this morning.

This is the first confirmed death from Hurricane Laura, which made landfall at the Louisiana-Texas border around 1 a.m., bringing storm surge, intense winds and widespread power outages to the western coast of Louisiana and upper coast of Texas late Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

The storm surge came in at about half of what was expected, the Edwards said. But a clear picture of the damage has yet to emerge. It’s not yet safe to fly over and assess the damage.

A search-and-rescue team of about 1,500 people was at the ready as of 7:30 a.m.

Laura is now moving north as a Category 2 hurricane, according to the National Weather Service.

Credit NOAA

Read yesterday's coverage here.

Support for the Coastal Desk comes from the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and local listeners.

Ashley Dean is the digital news editor for New Orleans Public Radio. Before coming to New Orleans, she was the editor of Denverite, a digital news startup now under the Colorado Public Radio umbrella. Prior to that she was a copy editor and features writer at the Denver Post, and before that, a music reporter for the Colorado Daily. She graduated from Columbia University with a master's degree in journalism and from Northeastern University with a bachelor's degree in journalism.
Rosemary Westwood is the public and reproductive health reporter for WWNO/WRKF. She was previously a freelance writer specializing in gender and reproductive rights, a radio producer, columnist, magazine writer and podcast host.
Paul Braun is WRKF's Capitol Access reporter.
Tegan has reported on the coast for WWNO since 2015. In this role she has covered a wide range of issues and subjects related to coastal land loss, coastal restoration, and the culture and economy of Louisiana’s coastal zone, with a focus on solutions and the human dimensions of climate change. Her reporting has been aired nationally on Planet Money, Reveal, All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Marketplace, BBC, CBC and other outlets. She’s a recipient of the Pulitzer Connected Coastlines grant, CUNY Resilience Fellowship, Metcalf Fellowship, and countless national and regional awards.

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