The first major hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, Laura, has wreaked havoc across the southern coast of the U.S. Louisiana and Texas received the brunt of the storm as it made landfall Thursday, Aug. 24 as a Category 4 hurricane.
Before arriving in the U.S., Laura moved past the Lesser Antilles and Virgin Islands as a tropical storm to then through Hispaniola. Despite warnings to evacuate in Haiti, the death toll was confirmed to be 31 with eight people missing as of Aug. 28. The damage was widespread with over 2,000 houses damaged and 6,000 flooded. The Dominican Republic was also hit, with four confirmed deaths.
Laura continued its path, moving through Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Cuba. The Cayman Islands issued a Tropical Storm warning Aug. 23. Landfall was made in Cuba on Aug. 23 with tropical storm watches and warnings issued beforehand. Many people throughout Cuba’s provinces were evacuated and power was preemptively cut in some areas. Evacuations proved challenging in the era of COVID-19 especially with quarantine centers for those who were suspected to be positive for the virus.
In the United States, the governors of Florida and Louisiana issued a state of emergency Aug. 21, with Mississippi also declaring a state of emergency on Aug. 22. Texas followed suit the next day.
While several states including Florida, Texas, Mississippi and Arkansas experienced high wind gusts, tornadoes, power outages and destroyed communities, Louisiana was hit the hardest. The landfall point of Cameron, La. experienced wind gusts of 127 miles per hours with speeds of 137 miles per hour reached in other areas of Louisiana. In the aftermath, more than 400,000 residents went without power and 200,000 without water. The hurricane related death toll rose to 26 Tuesday, Sept. 8. Several victims were affected by carbon monoxide poisoning attributed to the improper use of portable generators.
President Donald Trump approved an emergency disaster declaration for Arkansas Aug. 27. Trump visited both Lake Charles, La. and Orange, Tx. Saturday, Aug. 29 to meet with first responders and local officials. He toured the damaged areas and received a storm recovery briefing. He vowed to help the area rebuild by declaring, “We have to take care of Louisiana. We have to take care of Texas.”
Throughout all of the affected areas, a total of 71 deaths have been reported. Recovery has been slow with many residents displaced or still without power as the power grids may take weeks, if not months, to repair.