Louisiana closes nearly half of coastal flood gates ahead of hurricane

FILE PHOTO: Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards speaks about his state's coronavirus response during a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 29, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Louisiana had closed nearly half of the state’s coastal flood control gates by Thursday afternoon ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Delta, Governor John Bel Edwards said at a news conference.

The U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) is confident Delta will make landfall on Friday in hard-hit southwest Louisiana, between the cities of Lake Charles and Lafayette, said Benjamin Schott, chief meteorologist of NWS office in New Orleans.

Southwest Louisiana was hit on Aug. 26 by Hurricane Laura, a powerful category 4 storm that destroyed houses and caused catastrophic damage to the electrical power infrastructure in the area.

Delta is forecast to be a category 3 storm at landfall packing winds of at least 111 miles per hour (179 kph). The storm is also forecast to weaken rapidly.

“It seems likely to make more of a punch on southwest Louisiana than we would like to see as those people said are still recovering from Hurricane Laura,” Edwards said.

Schott, speaking at the same news conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said Delta is forecast to be a fast-moving storm that will make landfall on Friday night and pass out of the state on Saturday morning.

“This is a large storm that’s going to have very large wind field extending out 140 miles (225 km) from the center,” Schott said.

Edwards said he understood the burden the new storm may place on the state’s residents.

“I know people in Louisiana, especially the southwest are very strong and very resilient, but they are going to be tested here,” Edwards said.

Reporting by Erwin Seba; editing by Diane Craft and Richard Pullin