BATON ROUGE, La. - Residents in parts of the US state of Louisiana jammed highways as Hurricane Delta spun across the Gulf of Mexico toward a region struggling to recover from the damage inflicted by a hurricane less than two months ago.
Delta on Friday morning was a Category 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale, packing winds of 120 miles per hour (325 km) and expected to bring winds, rain and a "life threatening" storm surge, National Hurricane Center forecasters said.
Residents and businesses boarded windows and several southwest parishes closed schools, government offices and called for residents to flee to safer ground.
"I know people in Louisiana, especially the southwest, are very strong and very resilient, but they are going to be tested here," Governor John Bel Edwards said at a Thursday news conference.
Forecast models show Delta weakening slightly but remaining at or near a category 3 hurricane at landfall between the cities of Lake Charles and Lafayette, driving a 4- to 11-foot (1.2-3.3 meters) storm surge up Vermilion Bay on the coast. It could also unleash tornadoes as it moves over land and drop up to 10 inches (25 cm) of rain.
The same region was hard hit by Hurricane Laura in August, leaving more than 6,000 people still living temporarily in hotel rooms and others with damaged homes.
Another storm, Hurricane Sally, brought torrential rains and flash flooding to Alabama and Georgia in September.
"They never had time to recover from Laura and now this next storm is hitting them. They never had time to get back on their feet and they didn't think they could survive the second one," Cathy Evans, 63, said of her daughter's family as she helped them move out of their Lake Charles home.
Evans, who traveled to Lake Charles from Texarkana, Arkansas, left with her daughter and family for Texas on Thursday evening as Louisiana was closing its flood control gates.
New Orleans may be spared the worst of the storm, although it will be hit by gusty winds and mild rain, said AccuWeather meteorologist Dan Kottlowski, with Lafayette the largest city on the storm's eastern and more dangerous side.
The state received a federal emergency declaration and Wal-Mart said it was closing many of its stores across the Gulf Coast as a precaution.
Energy companies halted 92%, or nearly 1.7 million barrels per day of offshore oil output, and 62% of natural gas production, data showed. The U.S. Coast Guard warned shippers of impending gale force winds from Port Arthur, Texas, to New Orleans.
When Delta reaches the northern Gulf Coast, it will be the 10th named storm to make a U.S. landfall this year, eclipsing a record that has stood since 1916.