Hurricane Laura Kills 14-Year-Old Girl, Leaves 650K Without Power as It Weakens to Category 1
A 14-year-old girl was killed in Leesville after a tree fell on her home, Gov. John Bel Edwards said
At least one person has died and hundreds of thousands more are without power after Hurricane Laura touched down in the U.S. early Thursday morning.
The storm — which made landfall as a Category 4 and has since been downgraded to a Category 1 — brought less flood damage than experts anticipated, but a significant amount of structural damage, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said on MSNBC Thursday morning.
He added that a 14-year-old girl was killed after a tree fell on her Leesville-area home, the Monroe News-Star reported.
"I suspect that won't be the last, though I pray we don't have any more," Edwards told MSNBC, according to Good Morning America. "But we know we have at least one fatality now in Louisiana."
Meanwhile, more than 134,000 people in Texas and at least 518,000 people in Louisiana are without power Thursday morning, according to PowerOutage.US.
Louisiana Congressman Ralph Abraham told the News-Star that “very few structures,” including power lines and poles, were undamaged between Lake Charles and DeRidder.
“It’s like an obstacle course on the roads,” he said.
Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser told GMA that he’d heard of dozens of families who stayed behind amid evacuation orders, and that emergency crews would be dispatched to check on them.
“We’re hopeful that we don’t find people that didn’t make it,” he said.
One of those people who decided to stay behind was Ashley Thompson. She told GMA she and her family boarded up their windows, turned on their generators and hoped for the best.
"We got our family in our home under the kitchen table," she said. "After being under the kitchen table for about five minutes, we lost our roof."
Thompson added that her family escaped their damaged home and took cover in a neighboring house that was under construction alongside other local families doing the same. She said her neighborhood has downed trees and power lines.
Despite repeated pushes from Gov. Edwards and the National Hurricane Center to evacuate, not all heeded the warnings, including at least 150 people in Cameron Parish, where Laura made landfall, according to the Associated Press.
“It’s a very sad situation,” said Ashley Buller, assistant director of the parish Office of Emergency Preparedness. “We did everything we could to encourage them to leave.”
The fate of the residents remains unknown, though Bulling said structures in the area were at great risk of being swept away by a storm surge.
“As we wake up today, everyone must remember that the threat #Laura poses to Louisiana is ongoing,” Gov. Edwards wrote on Twitter. “Stay home, and continue to heed the warnings and instructions of local officials and monitor your local news to stay informed.”
Laura touched down in the U.S. at 2 a.m. on Thursday as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, according to the NHC. Within hours, it had weakened into a Category 3 storm with 120 mph winds.
RELATED VIDEO: Southern United States Prepares For Hurricane Laura as Storm Transforms Into Category 4
It was then downgraded even further to a Category 2 and then 1 storm, and is expected to become a tropical storm later Thursday.
An advisory from the NHC issued Thursday morning said that Laura was still bringing “damaging winds and flooding rainfall” inland over western and central Louisiana, as well as a “life-threatening storm surge” along the coast.
The storm is also still expected to dump 6-12 inches of rain, with isolated totals of 18 inches, in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas, which could lead to flash and urban flooding.