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Hurricane Laura strikes Louisiana, killing 6 and leaving a path of destruction

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Louisiana city refuses to take in Hurricane Laura evacuees 09:32

Hurricane Laura struck Louisiana as one of the most powerful storms in U.S. history, leaving widespread destruction across the state. At least six people were killed in Louisiana, including a 14-year-old girl and a 68-year-old man.

The storm, which later weakened to a tropical depression, tore apart homes and businesses and knocked out power to nearly one million customers in Texas and Louisiana. Arkansas was under a state of emergency and was being lashed by damaging winds and flooding. 

Hurricane Laura
A couple reacts as they go through their destroyed mobile home following the passing of Hurricane Laura in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on August 27, 2020. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty

Laura weakens to a tropical depression

After thrashing Louisiana as a Category 4 storm, Laura has now weakened to a tropical depression, according to the National Hurricane Center. 

The storm is currently about 30 miles north northeast of Little Rock, Arkansas, with maximum sustained winds of about 35 mph. 

By Victoria Albert

Outages leave hundreds of thousands in the dark and without water in Louisiana

Hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana are without either power or water in the wake of Hurricane Laura. According to Entergy, as of 4 p.m. Thursday more than 540,000 customers are in the dark. The power company said more than 16,000 restoration teams have been deployed.

The Louisiana Department of Health tweeted that more than 220,000 residents were facing water system outages, meaning their community "can't access water." The department said that 67 water system outages related to Hurricane Laura were to blame.

As of 7 p.m. CT, Tropical Storm Laura was approximately 35 miles south of Little Rock, Arkansas with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph. According to the National Hurricane Center, "the center of Laura is forecast to move over Arkansas [Thursday night], the mid-Mississippi Valley on Friday, the mid-Atlantic states on Saturday, and over the western Atlantic on Sunday."

By April Siese

Southern Poverty Law Center accuses ICE of "reckless" evacuation of detainees ahead of storm

The Southern Poverty Law Center on Thursday accused Immigration and Customs Enforcement of being "reckless" when it evacuated detainees at Louisiana's Allen Parish Correctional Center ahead of Hurricane Laura. 

"According to family members, ICE took no precautions to distance COVID-19 positive individuals as they ordered detained individuals into buses, potentially exposing the evacuees and those housed in the detention facilities to which they were transferred to the deadly virus," the group said in a statement.  

An ICE spokesperson said in a statement that the detainees "were transferred in accordance with the agency's COVID-19 prevention measures with the concurrence of agency medical officials." 

By Victoria Albert

Sister of teen killed during Hurricane Laura speaks out

A 14-year-old girl was killed overnight by a falling tree after Hurricane Laura made landfall. It happened in the city of Leesville, Louisiana, about a 100 miles inland from the coast.

Cynthia Miller, her two sisters and their parents rode out the hurricane in their parents' bedroom. Their town of Leesville was not under evacuation and family thought it would be safe.

"She was really smart. She wanted to go to Harvard and be a microbiologist," Cynthia's sister Nellie told CBS News. "It was scary, dark. It was terrifying ... We went to ride out the storm in our parents' room. And um, everyone was sitting in there and the tree — it came down."

"I walked and tried to find Cindy cause she wasn't talking. And I tried to wake her up and she wouldn't wake up," Nellie added.

Cynthia was pinned and help was unavailable. The 2-mile stretch of road to their house was covered in trees. The sheriff's office spent five hours on foot using chainsaws to create a pathway.

Family of teen who was killed during Hurricane Laura speaks out 01:48
By Jonathan Vigliotti

Louisiana coast devastated by Hurricane Laura

Hurricane Laura slammed into the Louisiana coast last night with winds up to 150 miles per hour. An aerial view of the area appears to show roofs ripped off their homes and walls that collapsed. The buildings that are still standing are submerged. 

The storm cut a huge swath of devastation across southern Louisiana, killing at least 6 people. Nearly a million households in Texas and Louisiana are without power. 

Buildings in Grand Lake were flattened by the storm, and the high winds knocked dozens of rail cars off the track. A floating casino ended up jammed underneath a bridge, and the sides of a huge boat shed were peeled back by the high winds. A football stadium is partially underwater.

In Lake Charles, Barbara Thomas has a mess to clean up — but she's thankful it isn't worse. 

"You could hear the shingles coming off… but It's not as bad as I had thought it might be," she told CBS News. 

By Omar Villafranca

6 deaths linked to the storm

At least six people have died in Louisiana as a result of Hurricane Laura, state officials confirmed to CBS News. 

A 68-year-old man, 14-year-old girl, 51-year-old man, and 64-year-old man were all killed when trees fell on their residences. A 24-year-old man died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator placed inside his home, and another man drowned after his boat sank during the storm. 

By Victoria Albert

Storm surge warning discontinued for the Gulf Coast

The National Hurricane Center has discontinued its storm surge warning for the Gulf Coast. There are now no coastal watches or warnings in effect, as the storm makes its way inward. Laura is now approximately 80 miles northeast of Shreveport, Louisiana. 

Tropical storm warnings remain in effect for portions of northern Louisiana, southern Arkansas, and extreme western Mississippi.

By Victoria Albert

Widespread power outages across Louisiana and Texas

As of 4 p.m. ET, more than 840,000 people in Louisiana and Texas remained without power in Hurricane Laura's aftermath, according to data from Louisiana is experiencing the worst of the outages with almost 600,000 people without electricity.

CBS affiliate KHOU-TV said brownouts have hit Montgomery County as well as Chambers, Liberty and Walker counties. An official with the region's power utility told the station that Laura damaged key transmission lines, conductors and some transmission towers that handle bringing power from the east.

The power utility is asking customers in the western area north of Houston to voluntarily curtail their power usage to help the infrastructure, the station reported.

CBS affiliate KFDM said energy company Entergy has begun periodic power outages to prevent "a more extensive, prolonged power outage that could severely affect the reliability of the power grid." The outages are the result of "extensive damage" caused by the storm, the company said. 


Trump to visit storm-hit Louisiana and Texas

Donald Trump — Hurricane Laura
President Trump and Vice President Pence listen during a Hurricane Laura briefing at FEMA headquarters on Thursday, August 27, 2020, in Washington. Evan Vucci / AP

President Trump says he will visit the Gulf Coast this weekend to tour damage from one of the fiercest hurricanes to hit the U.S. Mr. Trump said he would visit Texas and Louisiana on Saturday or Sunday to survey the destruction caused by Laura, which Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said has killed at least four people.

Laura slammed the Gulf Coast early Thursday and roared through Louisiana. The bulk of the damage was reported in Louisiana. The storm barreled over Lake Charles, Louisiana, an industrial and casino city of 80,000 people.

Extensive property damage has been reported; a floating casino that came unmoored hit a bridge.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told Trump that the situation on the ground "is fluid and challenging," but the Federal Emergency Management Agency is responding. The hurricane's top wind speed of 150 mph put it among the most powerful on record in the U.S.

By The Associated Press

Texas governor says state dodged a bullet

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Thursday that his state dodged a bullet.

He said there were still no confirmed fatalities in Texas nearly 12 hours after Laura made landfall. He said his state appeared to have made it through the storm with minimal or no loss of life, which he said was a "miracle." 

Abbott toured areas of East Texas on Thursday that were affected by Hurricane Laura, which caused devastation in neighboring Louisiana. Abbott described seeing roofs sheared off buildings and uprooted trees following an aerial tour of the damage near their shared border.

The storm surge that was predicted to be as high as 10 feet before landfall wound up being closer to 3 feet, he said. 

Abbott said about 8,500 people were served in Texas shelters. He said the state minimized potential loss of life because residents in the storm's path heeded local advance warnings to evacuate.



Flash Flood Warning in effect in Arkansas


Tropical Storm Warning discontinued

A Tropical Storm Warning that was in effect earlier for High Island, Texas, to the mouth of the Mississippi River in Louisiana has been discontinued. 

The National Hurricane Center said in its 1 p.m. CT advisory that a Storm Surge Warning remained in effect for Sabine Pass, Texas, to Port Fourchon, Louisiana.

"A Storm Surge Warning means there is a danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline in the indicated locations," the hurricane center said.

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

Louisiana National Guard on the ground in Lake Charles

Members of the Louisiana National Guard were working to clear debris from the streets of Lake Charles Thursday in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura.

The Guard said 17 teams across the state are working with state and local agencies.


Port Arthur police: "It appears the city fared well"

Police in Port Arthur, located on Texas' Gulf Coast, said Thursday "it appears the city fared well as there has been no loss of life and no catastrophic damages reported."

"The Port Arthur Emergency Management Team is steadily working with city officials and other local law enforcement to restore city services in our attempt to return citizens as soon as safely possible," the Port Arthur Police Department posted on Facebook Thursday afternoon.

"There is still a significant number of residences and businesses without power" it said. "Due to this, many businesses are not open. There is also a very limited supply of gasoline."

"We will let the public know as soon as we have more information on the return of our residents."

Earlier, Texas Governor Greg Abbott credited the evacuations of thousands of people for preventing deaths in the state. 



Police say they're responding to chlorine leak

Louisiana State Police said they're responding to a chlorine leak at a company that makes chemicals along Interstate 10 just west of Lake Charles, Louisiana. Police said the leak is at the BioLab chemical manufacturing facility in Westlake and that they're working with plant managers to try and contain the leak. 

BioLab's Lake Charles plant was built in 1979 and manufactures trichloroisocyanuric acid, chlorinating granules and other chemicals used in such household cleaners as Comet bleach scrub and pool chlorine powder.

Both trichloroisocyanuric acid and chlorine are potentially acutely toxic to people and animals if ingested or inhaled. Chlorine gas, which can appear in the air as a greenish yellow cloud, was used as a chemical weapon in World War 1. It is a potent irritant to the eyes, throat and lungs. 

Residents in the area were told to close their doors and windows, turn off their air conditioning and stay inside.   

By The Associated Press

Sulphur, Louisiana, issues shelter in place

Sulphur, Louisiana, issued a shelter in place for the city Thursday as a chemical fire burned in the area.

"Due to a chemical release at an area industrial facility, The City of Sulphur is issuing a shelter in place for the city until further notice," it said on Facebook.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards also advised residents in the Westlake/Moss Bluff/Sulphur area to shelter in place, close windows and turn off air conditioning units. 

Smoke rises from a burning chemical plant after the passing of Hurricane Laura in Lake Charles, Louisiana on August 27, 2020. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS
By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

Hurricane Laura topples Confederate statue

A Confederate general has fallen victim to Hurricane Laura. The South's Defenders monument has stood since 1915 outside a courthouse in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where local authorities voted 10-4 this month to keep it in place.

Critics call it a symbol of racism that glorifies slavery. But a Calcasieu Parish official said they asked for public comments, and got 878 written responses against relocating the monument, and only 67 in favor of moving it.

Now the pedestal is empty, and the Confederate statue is in pieces on the ground, victim to a Category 4 hurricane that struck the city early Thursday.

By The Associated Press

Louisiana governor confirms chemical fire

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards confirmed Thursday that a chemical fire was burning in the state and advised residents in the area to shelter in place.

"There is a chemical fire in the Westlake/Moss Bluff/Sulphur area," he tweeted.

"If you are in the Westlake/Moss Bluff/Sulphur area, shelter in place, close your windows and doors and TURN OFF YOUR AIR CONDITIONING UNITS," he said. "There is a chemical fire. Stay inside and wait for additional direction from local officials."

The Associated Press reports the fire sent a dangerous cloud over Lake Charles hours after the eye of Laura passed over the coastal city. 

Smoke rises from a burning chemical plant after the passing of Hurricane Laura in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on August 27, 2020. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP
By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

Hardin County, Texas, terminating evacuation order

CBS affiliate KKOU-TV reports Hardin County, Texas, is terminating a mandatory evacuation order as of noon on Thursday, according to a news release from Hardin County Judge Wayne McDaniel.

Over 10,300 residents and businesses in the county were without power Thursday morning and there were no estimates on when power would be restored, he said in the news release.

Most grocery and convenience stores, as well as many gas stations, remain closed in the country.


Watches and warnings as of 10 a.m. CT

The following warnings and watches were in effect as of 10 a.m. CT (11 a.m. ET), according to the National Hurricane Center.

  • Storm Surge Warning for Sabine Pass, Texas, to Port Fourchon, Louisiana
  • Tropical Storm Warning for High Island, Texas, to the mouth of the Mississippi River in Louisiana

Texas governor says storm surge not as bad as anticipated but residents still "in danger"

Texas Governor Greg Abbott had a cautiously optimistic outlook Thursday morning as the sun rose over his state after Hurricane Laura made landfall. Abbott said the massive storm did not bring the "unsurvivable storm surge" that was feared.

"Early on it looked like the Beaumont, Port Arthur area may be taking the brunt of the storm," Abbott told "CBS This Morning." "Over the past six hours, before the storm came across shore, it moved a little bit more on the Louisiana side. So it did not turn out as bad as was earlier anticipated."

But Abbott stressed the state is not done with the storm.

"Even as we're speaking right now, the storm continues to rip through east Texas. And so Texans are in danger," Abbott said. "They need to continue to take cover as tornadoes and heavy storms are ripping through there. East Texas has many tall trees, many of which have been downed already. People need to be very vigilant still as we are speaking."

Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Hurricane Laura 03:24

Pictures show destruction in Lake Charles

Hurricane Laura Makes Landfall On US Gulf Coast
A street is seen strewn with debris and downed power lines after Hurricane Laura passed through the area on August 27, 2020, in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Getty Images
Hurricane Laura Makes Landfall On US Gulf Coast
Capitol One Bank Tower is seen with its windows blown out in the downtown area after Hurricane Laura passed through on August 27, 2020, in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Getty Images
Hurricane Laura Makes Landfall On US Gulf Coast
A Lake Charles police officer helps clear the streets in the downtown area after Hurricane Laura passed through on August 27, 2020, in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Getty Images
Hurricane Laura Makes Landfall On US Gulf Coast
Reagan Cotten and Kate Cotten walk through the downtown area after Hurricane Laura passed through on August 27, 2020, in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Getty Images

First death reported in Louisiana

Christina Stephens, the Louisiana governor's deputy chief of staff for communications, said in a tweet Thursday that Governor John Bel Edwards has received a report about the first fatality from Hurricane Laura in Louisiana.

A 14-year-old girl in Leesville died when a tree fell on her home, she said.

"We do expect that there could be more fatalities," she added. 

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

Tornado Watch issued in 3 states


Jefferson County, Texas, residents can head home at 10 a.m.

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick has rescinded a mandatory evacuation order for the Texas county which is home to Port Arthur and Beaumont.

The new order is effective at 10 a.m. local time Thursday, according to a Facebook post from the Jefferson County Texas Office of Emergency Management.

As CBS affiliate KHOU-TV reports, residents can head back to the county at that time. 


Life-threatening storm surge is continuing

The National Hurricane Center said in its 7 a.m. ET advisory that "life-threatening storm surge with large and destructive waves" will continue Thursday morning within a Storm Surge Warning area that spans from High Island, Texas, to the mouth of Mississippi in Louisiana.

"This surge could penetrate up to 40 miles inland from the immediate coastline, and flood waters will not fully recede for several days after the storm," it said.

Water could swell to the following heights somewhere in these areas:

  • Johnson Bayou to Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge including Calcasieu Lake: 15-20 feet
  • Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge to Intracoastal City: 10-15 feet
  • Intracoastal City to Morgan City including Vermilion Bay: 8-12 feet
  • Sea Rim State Park to Johnson Bayou including Sabine Lake: 4-8 feet
  • Morgan City to Mouth of the Mississippi River: 4-7 feet
  • High Island to Sea Rim State Park: 2-4 feet
  • Mouth of the Mississippi River to Ocean Springs including Lake Borgne:1-3 feet
  • Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas: 1-3 feet
By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

List of warnings and watches

The following warnings and watches were in effect as of 7 a.m. local time Thursday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

  • A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for: High Island Texas to the Mouth of the Mississippi River 
  • A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for: High Island Texas to the Mouth of the Mississippi River 
By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

Louisiana governor: Threat from Laura is ongoing

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said in a tweet early Wednesday that as residents wake up they must remember the threat from Laura is ongoing.

"Stay home, continue to heed the warnings and instructions of local officials and monitor your local news to stay informed," he tweeted.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development warned that conditions remain unsafe and urged residents to check before traveling.

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

Nearly 470,000 homes and businesses lose power

Nearly 470,000 homes and businesses have lost power in Texas and Louisiana due to Hurricane Laura.

As of early Thursday morning, three Texas counties were reporting tens of thousands of outages: 39,645 in Jefferson County, 21,813 in Orange County and 7,966 in Hardin County, CBS affiliate KHOU reported.  

Widespread outages were also reported across Louisiana. 

Tony Guillory, president of the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury in Louisiana, said early Thursday morning over the phone as he hunkered down in a Lake Charles, Louisiana, that he hopes stranded people can be rescued later Thursday but fears downed power lines, blocked roads and and flooding could get in the way.  

"There are some people still in town and people are calling ... but there ain't no way to get to them," he said.



Lake Charles hit hard

Hurricane Laura's howling winds battered a tall building in Lake Charles, Louisiana, blowing out windows as glass and debris flew to the ground. Hours after landfall, the wind and rain were still blowing hard.

"There are some people still in town and people are calling ... but there ain't no way to get to them," Tony Guillory, president of the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, said early Thursday morning over the phone as he hunkered down in a Lake Charles government building that was shaking from the storm.

Guillory said he hopes stranded people can be rescued later Thursday but fears that blocked roads, downed power lines and flooding could get in the way. 

Officials said search missions and damage assessments would begin when conditions allow it.

With more than 290,000 homes and businesses without power in the Louisiana and Texas, near-constant lightning provided the only light for some.

By The Associated Press

Weather Service evacuates Lake Charles office

Conditions after Hurricane Laura made landfall were so dangerous that the National Weather Service cleared out of its Lake Charles, Louisiana office and was conducting operations from its Houston facility, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

The center said Laura's eyewall was pushing inland across southwestern Louisiana, causing "catastrophic storm surge, extreme winds and flash flooding" early Thursday.

By Brian Dakss
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