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Southern States Assessing The Damage From Laura As Storm Continues To Weaken

Lake Charles, La., was one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Laura earlier this week. Residents have just started returning to survey the damage.
Lake Charles, La., was one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Laura earlier this week. Residents have just started returning to survey the damage.

After pummeling the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Laura has been downgraded several levels to what's called a remnant low, moving through Arkansas and into the Mid-Atlantic. But even in its weakened state, the storm continues to cause significant damage, with many areas now bracing for heavy rainfall as Laura makes its way toward the Atlantic Ocean.

Much of Arkansas was affected on Friday, with heavy rain and high winds reported throughout the state. The storm entered the state Thursday night and brought winds of up to 55 mph before eventually weakening.

Multiple tornadoes touched down, leaving extensive damage to homes and buildings in the northeastern corner of Arkansas. More than 5 inches of rain were reported in southern areas of the state. Tens of thousands were left without power as the strong winds downed trees and power lines.

The most severe damage from the storm remains in Louisiana and eastern Texas, where Hurricane Laura made landfall and ravaged the coasts. At least 14 deaths have been attributed to the storm, according to reports. At its peak, Laura was a Category 4 storm, one of the most powerful to hit the area in decades, bringing winds as high as 150 mph and over 9 feet of storm surge in some places.

In Louisiana, hundreds of thousands were left without water and power as officials in the state scramble to fix downed lines, broken pipes and restore water pressure. Over 400,000 homes and buildings were still without power as of Saturday morning, according to poweroutage.us.

In the Louisiana city of Lake Charles, one of the hardest-hit areas, residents have started to return. NPR member station WNNO reports that many are finding damage to be haphazard, with some buildings completely destroyed while others escaped untouched.

Lake Charles resident Austin Thorne, 24, spoke to WNNO as he helped clear tree branches off homes. He said officials have been asking residents to stay away, at least for now.

Thorne said that's a hard ask when it's your friends and neighbors who need help.

"They're saying, 'Look and leave,' " he said, "but I know a lot of folks who are hooking up a window unit with a generator, and they're planning on staying, doing whatever they can and just trying to get everybody back on their feet as soon as possible."

While the massive storm surge — and resulting damage — was nowhere near as bad as predicted, officials say it will take days to fully assess the aftermath, as more remote areas still remain inaccessible.

President Trump is scheduled to visit some of the hardest-hit areas in Louisiana and Texas, including Lake Charles, on Saturday. Trump has approved emergency declarations for Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Arkansas to assist with response to the storm.

Meanwhile, Laura continues to move through the Mid-Atlantic, bringing heavy rainfall through several states on Saturday, but it is losing much of its strength and severity in the process.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.