Hurricane Delta Is Heading for the Petrochemical Hub That Hurricane Laura Hit Six Weeks Ago

Hurricane Delta Is Heading for the Petrochemical Hub That Hurricane Laura Hit Six Weeks Ago
A couple react as they go through their destroyed mobile home following the passing of hurricane Laura in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on August 27, 2020. The same area is set to be hit by Hurricane Delta on Friday. (Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds, Getty Images)

Louisiana can’t catch a break. Just six weeks after Category 4 Hurricane Laura made landfall and took over two dozen lives, another powerful storm is on its way.

Hurricane Delta is gaining power after striking the Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 4 storm on Wednesday. The National Hurricane Centre’s Thursday evening update found winds of 185 km/h, making Delta a major Category 3 hurricane once again as the storm feeds on warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Its wind field is also growing, which the storm will use to whip up the ocean and send more storm surge inland.

Right now, its track has it on a collision course with southwest Louisiana by Friday afternoon or evening. The region was hit hard by Hurricane Laura in late August with a 10-foot storm surge that destroyed entire neighbourhoods. Several parishes in the region are under mandatory evacuation orders, including Lake Charles. The region is a petrochemical hub, and Hurricane Laura ignited dangerous, polluting chemical fires there due to leaks at processing plants. Ahead of the coming storm, area officials are working to clean up debris left from the previous hurricane, which could be hazardous if it blows in the strong winds.

“This is not a bad dream, it’s not a test run. These are the cards we’ve been dealt,” Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said on Thursday in a Facebook video. “There’s still time to get out of the way of Hurricane Delta. Please don’t wait,” he added in another post.

Storm surge could rise up 3.35 m, with the NHC warning of “life-threatening inundation.” Lake Charles is to west of the worst of the surge forecast, but water levels there are still expected to rise up to 8 feet above normal.

“Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other dangerous conditions,” the NHC said.

Much of Texas’ Gulf Coast, as well as southwest and central Mississippi, could also see impacts from Hurricane Delta. A hurricane warning is currently in effect from High Island, Texas, to Morgan City, Louisiana. The Texas city of Port Arthur, which is home to the continent’s largest oil refinery and saw three killed by Hurricane Laura, is expected to be affected. Swaths of Texas and Mississippi are also under storm surge warning.

Rates of cancer are high in the region, as are rates of poverty. When Hurricane Laura battered the Gulf Coast, it brought the region’s inequality into sharp relief. While mansion owners bought $US7,000 ($9,780) inflatable levees to barricade their homes, low-income people were forced to rely on buses to evacuate. Delta will almost certainly shine another spotlight on the unequal ways people experience disasters.

“We realise that not everyone has the financial wherewithal to simply put money into a gas tank and go rent a hotel right now,” Lake Charles Mayor Hunter said in his Facebook video. He advised any residents without the means to evacuate to head to any city bus stop, where they can be transported to a safe location for free.

Until we take serious action to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis and rapidly alleviate inequality, the gross truth is that we’re likely to see injustice in the face of climate disaster again and again.