Hurricane Delta tore into a part of Louisiana that was still recovering from Hurricane Laura just six weeks earlier, landing as a Category 2 storm that flooded hundreds of buildings that had already been damaged by the previous Category 4 disaster.
The storm made landfall less than 20 miles away from where Laura hit with 150-mile-per-hour/241-kilometre-per-hour winds, “leaving a trail of destruction as it turned roadways into rapids and uprooted trees that crashed onto roofs,” the New York Times reports. “It also dealt a demoralizing blow to a state still staggering its way back from one of the most powerful storms it had ever endured.”
“Add Laura and Delta together and it’s just absolutely unprecedented and catastrophic,” Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter told The Associated Press. “We are very concerned that with everything going in the country right now, this incident may not be on the radar nationally like it should be.”
The storm knocked out grid power to more than 400,000 households and businesses in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, EcoWatch reports, citing a CNN report. “The back-to-back impacts of Laura and Delta are a reminder of how catastrophes can compound because of the climate crisis,” EcoWatch added.
“We live today in the age of crisis conglomeration,” wrote climate justice advocate Mary Annaïse Heglar. “It is no longer useful or honest or even smart to look at any of them through a single lens.”
News reports cited Delta as the tenth named storm to make landfall in the U.S. this year, in what forecasters had warned would be an above-average hurricane season. “The storm swept through Creole, an unincorporated area of Cameron Parish that had been virtually wiped out by Laura,” the Times says. “The intersection that had constituted downtown, with a gas station, restaurant, and grocery store, had been reduced to scattered rubble.”
The news story identifies Cameron as Louisiana’s largest parish by land mass but one of its least populated due to “an exodus after previous epic hurricanes, Rita in 2005 and Ike in 2008. Now the residents who remained, weary after Laura and dreading the storms likely to come in the future, are contemplating leaving.”
The Times has details of the storm’s impacts. Bloomberg identifies Cameron as a “hub for the oil, petrochemical and liquefied natural gas industries” that sits three feet above sea level and has a population of 400.
Days earlier, Delta had intensified by a record-setting 85 miles/136 kilometres per hour over a 24-hour span, before making landfall in Mexico as a Category 2 storm, CBS News reports. It was previously expected to hit Cancún at Category 4, with potential to cause US$12 to $16 billion in damage.
“Delta’s rapid intensification is no coincidence,” CBS states. “Memorable storms like this season’s Hurricane Laura, and past season storms like Michael and Harvey, have done the same. Over the past few decades, rapid intensification has been increasing by about three to four mph per decade due to hotter waters from human-caused climate change. That means a system in 1980 that may have intensified by 40 mph in 24 hours might now intensify at 55 mph in 24 hours.”
Or, in Delta’s case, 85 mph.
“Delta exhibited a tell-tale sign of rapid intensification—a flare up of lightning in the centre of the storm,” CBS adds. “Lightning indicates rapid upward vertical motion and explosive thunderstorm development. Perhaps surprisingly, lightning is not very common near the centre of a hurricane, so when lightning is plentiful, it raises red flags.”
As usual, the news coverage attributes the intensification to higher sea surface temperatures in the Caribbean, brought on by climate change.
Several news reports had the storm inconveniencing the industry that bears the largest share of the blame for augmenting it, with “storm-weary” fossil companies shutting down their offshore oil platforms and onshore refineries as Delta approached. “Oil producers had evacuated 183 offshore facilities in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico by Wednesday and halted nearly 1.5 million barrels per day of oil and 1.33 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas production,” Reuters reported. “The region accounts for about 17% of U.S. oil output.”
That amounted to the biggest reduction in U.S. offshore oil and gas production in 15 years, the news agency added in a follow-up report. In the end, a U.S. regulator said the storm had shut in 91.5% of the region’s oil production and nearly 62% of its fossil gas, with producers evacuating personnel from 272 of the 643 staffed platforms in the Gulf.