Louisiana locals flee second hurricane in two months
Debris of a van caused by Hurricane Laura is seen on the street a day before upcoming Hurricane Delta in Lake Charles, Louisiana. AFP
As Hurricane Delta hurtles towards the US south coast, residents of Lake Charles are fleeing and for many it's the second time in two months they have had to leave faced with a potentially devastating storm.
The city, in Louisiana's southwest, is still in disarray, with roofs ripped off houses, trees uprooted and streets littered with debris -- damage caused by Hurricane Laura that packed winds of record-breaking speeds.
On Thursday, many were heading for the exits, leaving their homes and hoping for the best as a new and strengthening hurricane churned towards them.
A "15 years gap is OK between the two hurricanes," said Jo'Lee Hester. "But we have only been home for three weeks, between the evacuation and everything."
The damage done by Hurricane Laura at the end of August has made the new storm more dangerous, as high winds can scoop up materials still lying about and hurl them at speed. "I'm worried about the debris shattering the windows to be honest," Hester said.
Hurricane Delta was packing sustained winds of 120 miles per hour (195 kph), the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said, with landfall expected Friday evening. It is now a Category 3 storm, which means "devastating damage" may occur, according to the NHC.
'You loot, we shoot'
Lake Charles has a crime rate far above the national average and a few warning messages were hanging on Hesters' house: "We shoot first and ask questions later" and "You loot, we shoot".
Theirs is just one of many houses in the area with signs alerting potential pillagers to the consequences of their actions. Strong winds ripped the roof off their home in the last storm and like many nearby houses, it is covered with a blue tarpaulin.
Inside the modest building, torn ceiling tiles are hanging loose. Outside, their garage has collapsed completely. "We didn't get the chance to get that repaired yet. And now we have this," another hurricane, said Hester's mother-in-law, Kimberly.
She and her four family members -- including her 90-year-old mother -- got in their car and joined a long, snaking traffic jam out of town, headed for Houston where they stayed for a month after Laura hit. "I just pray to God every night we can at least have a house to come home to," she said.