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Cleanup Begins After Hurricane Delta Pummels Louisiana


Hurricane Delta is now a tropical depression blowing through the Mississippi River Valley. It came ashore in Southwest Louisiana last night as a Category 2 storm. One hundred mile per hour winds ravage communities that are still reeling from Hurricane Laura just six weeks ago. NPR's John Burnett has our report.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: A double dip, a one-two punch, a double whammy - call it what you want, the people of Southwest Louisiana have had it with hurricanes this year.

Mr. Bouley which was worse, Hurricane Laura or Hurricane Delta?

PAUL BOULEY: Oh, they're both the same.

BURNETT: Paul Bouley looks ruefully at his dilapidated camper that's seen better days. He says the hurricane winds last night pulled a seam open and soaked everything inside, including him. He fled to the protection of a defunct diner next door. Bouley, a 78-year-old retired oilfield worker, isn't easily rattled. But last night, in the town of Lake Arthur, it was something else.

BOULEY: And that camper was rocking and rolling. I ain't (ph) scared - I'm old enough to die, you know. I guess I'm no good. The good ones die, and the bad ones live.

BURNETT: Delta dropped more than a foot of rain in South Louisiana, an area already given over to wetlands. On a drive along rural highways today, crop fields and front yards had become lakes. The violent weather churned up wildlife. Turtles were scurrying across the pavement in great numbers. Half a million people in the lower half of the state are without power.

Lake Arthur, that hugs the shores of the cypress-studded lake of the same name, took a direct hit from Delta. The eye passed over at around 6 p.m. last night. Thankfully, it did not deliver the punch that Laura did in late August.

KOBI TURNER: Hurricane Laura was more sustained winds. You know, for us, Hurricane Delta was a lot more rain and bigger gusts.

BURNETT: Lake Arthur Police Chief Kobi Turner says Laura left a larger debris field behind, such as snapped limbs and twisted building materials. The townsfolk had finally cleared it all up and placed it in neat piles on the side of the road, but Delta had other plans. The volunteer fire department spent this morning picking up the same debris scattered all over again last night.

TURNER: Most of that was the debris that was pushed into the road. So we had to go clean that out.

BURNETT: People in South Louisiana are accustomed to hurricanes. Their resilience and resourcefulness in the face of the worst that Mother Nature can throw at them is a point of pride. That would describe Roberta Palermo, a local city councilwoman and the owner of a hotel in Lake Arthur. She works as a nurse at a hospital in Lake Charles, and she knows the beating that city took six weeks ago with Laura. Palermo too is weary.

ROBERTA PALERMO: No, I've never been through anything like this - not back to back for sure. And when you've just started to get things cleaned up, and you turn around, and it hits again.

BURNETT: She says her sentiments in 2020 are pretty much summed up by the message on her T-shirt - I got this, signed God.

John Burnett, NPR News, Lake Arthur, La. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news and other national assignments. In 2018, 2019 and again in 2020, he won national Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for continuing coverage of the immigration beat. In 2020, Burnett along with other NPR journalists, were finalists for a duPont-Columbia Award for their coverage of the Trump Administration's Remain in Mexico program. In December 2018, Burnett was invited to participate in a workshop on Refugees, Immigration and Border Security in Western Europe, sponsored by the RIAS Berlin Commission.