JONESBORO, Ark. — A reported tornado tore part of the roof from a rural church in northeastern Arkansas as the remnants of Hurricane Laura crossed the state.
Craighead County was under a tornado warning with there was a report of a tornado on the ground Thursday night near the Refuge Baptist Church in the western end of Lake City, Arkansas, 15 miles east of Jonesboro. Jonesboro E-911 Director Jeff Presley said a gas line also was ruptured, but no injuries were reported.
Meanwhile, Presley says rescue crews were working to extricate a woman after she was trapped when storm winds dropped a tree limb on her mobile home in Jonesboro.
Major roof damage was reported in the Goobertown, a community 10 miles (16 kilometers) northeast of Jonesboro, Presley said.
MIAMI — The U.S. National Hurricane Center has downgraded Laura to a tropical depression as the storm system crosses Arkansas.
Maximum sustained winds were recorded at 35 mph (55 kph) late Thursday, according to the hurricane center’s 10 p.m. CDT update. Forecasters said Laura was centered about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north-northeast of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Laura smashed across the Louisiana coast as a Category 4 hurricane early Thursday. The system maintained hurricane strength for about 11 hours before being downgraded to a tropical storm.
The Miami-based center said the storm system is expected to continue moving over Arkansas in the night and then on into the mid-Mississippi Valley on Friday before reaching the mid-Atlantic States on Saturday. It says the system will dump heavy rains in spots, raising the risk of flash floods.
LAKE CHARLES, LA. — The top part of a large transmission tower snapped and toppled into the studios of a Lake Charles television news station as Hurricane Laura tore across south Louisiana.
The general manager at KPLC-TV said no one was hurt because all staff members had evacuated from the station hours before Laura’s landfall. And the staff continued broadcasting storm news uninterrupted from sister stations elsewhere in Louisiana.
The station published photographs online showed part of the tower punched through the roof of the building, and piles of debris scattered inside the broadcast studio. KPLC-TV General Manager John Ware said Thursday that the media outlet would continue to deliver its regular newscasts while it rebuilds.
KPLC is owned by Atlanta-based Gray Television. Ware says that while some staffers who had evacuated remained in Lake Charles, while the majority relocated to Gray stations in the Louisiana cities of Alexandria and Baton Rouge as they kept up their broadcasts.
MIAMI, Fla. — Threats from the remnants of Hurricane Laura are continuing hundreds of miles inland and well after nightfall.
Forecasters have issued a string of tornado warnings for Mississippi and Arkansas, where Laura is now a tropical storm. No major damage has been reported from twisters, but tornadoes can be particularly dangerous at night.
The National Weather Service says Laura could dump as much as 7 inches of rain on Arkansas as it continues moving north away from Louisiana, where it made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane early Thursday.
The storm is forecast to weaken to a tropical depression overnight as it makes an eastward turn near southern Illinois.
LAKE CHARLES, La. — Louisiana officials now know of 6 deaths tied to Hurricane Laura.
The fatalities included a 24-year-old male that died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator inside his residence, Mike Steele, communications director for the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness said.
A man, whose age is unknown, died of drowning while aboard a sinking ship.
Earlier Thursday, a 14-year-old girl died when a tree crashed onto her family’s mobile home near Leesville, the Vernon Parish Sherriff’s Office said.
Laura blasted through the Louisiana coast and made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane early Thursday, wreaking damage on the industrial, casino city of Lake Charles.
The storm has left more than 875,000 people without power.
ORANGE, Texas — Some of the cities and communities in Texas hardest hit by Hurricane Laura were near the Louisiana border.
In Orange, Texas and nearby Newton County, Texas, many streets were blocked by large trees that had been toppled by Laura’s powerful winds.
Many homes had wind damage or damage from fallen trees. Nearly all businesses appeared to be closed as much of the area was still without electricity.
By Thursday afternoon, crews were clearing debris from streets and fixing power lines. Some residents could be seen using chainsaws to clear fallen trees in front of their homes.
LAKE CHARLES, La. — Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said state officials now know of four deaths tied to Hurricane Laura.
The deaths were all caused by trees falling on residences, Edwards said. None were on the coast, having happened in Vernon, Jackson and Acadia parishes. One death in Jackson in north Louisiana demonstrated the power of the storm, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm early Thursday, and traveled farther inland.
Edwards said the current priority is search and rescue, followed by efforts to find hotel or motel rooms for those who have lost their homes.
Hotel rooms are needed because conventional communal shelters pose a risk for spreading the coronavirus, he said.
Edwards said storm surge was measured in the range of 9 feet to 12 feet (2.7 to 3.7 meters) — bad but far less than the 20 feet (6 meters) that had been forecast. He said that has led him to hope that there will be less water damage to homes close to the coast, and that damaged homes can be made habitable more quickly.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Tropical Storm Laura is thrashing parts of southern Arkansas with powerful winds and heavy rainfall as the storm system lunges its way through the state after battering the Louisiana Gulf Coast.
Downed trees and structural damage were reported in some parts of Arkansas at midday Thursday, and more than 30,000 homes and businesses in the state were without electricity.
The National Weather Service says the damaging winds and torrential rains will be in the Little Rock area later Thursday afternoon and evening. Many schools canceled classes or had early dismissals in anticipation of Laura’s arrival.
Forecasters say there’s also the risk of isolated tornadoes in the eastern part of the state.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he will visit the Gulf Coast this weekend to tour damage from one of the fiercest hurricanes to hit the United States.
Trump said he would visit Texas and Louisiana on Saturday or Sunday to survey the destruction caused by Laura, which Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said has killed at least four people.
Laura slammed the Gulf Coast early Thursday and roared through Louisiana. The bulk of the damage was reported in Louisiana. The storm barreled over Lake Charles, Louisiana, an industrial and casino city of 80,000 people.
Extensive property damage has been reported; a floating casino that came unmoored hit a bridge.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told Trump that the situation on the ground “is fluid and challenging,” but the Federal Emergency Management Agency is responding.
The hurricane’s top wind speed of 150 mph (241 kph) put it among the most powerful on record in the U.S.
ORANGE, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says his state appeared to have made it through Hurricane Laura with minimal or no loss of life, which he said was a “miracle.”
Abbott on Thursday described seeing roofs sheared off buildings and uprooted trees following aerial tour of the damage near the state border with Louisiana. The storm surge that was predicted to be as high as 10 feet (3 meters) before landfall wound up being closer to 3 feet (0.9 meters), he said.
And nearly 12 hours after landfall, Abbott says there were still no confirmed fatalities.
Abbott said about 8,500 people were served in Texas shelters. He said the state minimized potential loss of life because residents in the storm’s path heeded local advance warnings to evacuate.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Greg Langley, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, said emergency crews in the Lake Charles area were working a fire at a chemical plant that handles chlorine for swimming pools, in an emergency that had area residents under a shelter-in-place directive.
Monitors from agency workers in the area so far have failed to pick up indications of a chlorine leak, Langley said.
State police, firefighters and other emergency workers were responding, and an Environmental Protection Agency plane was monitoring overhead, Langley said.
Storm damage meant crews had difficulty clearing downed utility equipment and trees and other wreckage to reach the site.
Langley said he knew of no other major industrial threats from the storm so far. Louisiana state environmental officials would be going up into the air over the storm area when cleared by aviation officials, looking for signs of any other industry fires or leaks, he said.
AUSTIN, Texas — Police in Austin, Texas, say a bystander was shot and killed after a fight broke out among 60 people who had fled the Gulf Coast from Hurricane Laura.
Austin police say two groups of people who had left Port Arthur and Beaumont on the southeast Texas coast got into a large fight in a downtown Austin street at about 12:30 a.m. Thursday. Police say one person opened fire, striking a woman.
Police say the woman was homeless and had not been involved the fight. She was pronounced dead shortly after 1 a.m.
MIAMI — Hurricane Laura has weakened to a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of nearly 70 mph (113 kph). Authorities say the storm is now 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of Shreveport.
Flooding rainfall and damaging winds spread inland over central and northern Louisiana, where the storm made landfall eleven hours earlier as a Category 4 storm.
Communities along the Gulf Coast experienced high water levels in the wake of Laura, the strongest storm to hit the U.S. this year.
More than 700,000 people in Louisiana and Texas were without power Thursday afternoon, according to the website PowerOutage.Us, which tracks utility reports.
National Weather Service officials said the remnants of Hurricane Laura could spawn tornadoes and cause flash flooding in parts of Arkansas and Tennessee.
WESTLAKE, La. — Louisiana State Police say they’re responding to a chlorine leak at a company that makes chemicals along Interstate 10 just west of Lake Charles, La., which was hard-hit when Hurricane Laura slammed into the Gulf Coast early Thursday.
Police say the leak is at the BioLab chemical manufacturing facility in Westlake. Residents in the area are being told to close their doors and windows, turn off their air conditioning and stay inside.
Police say they’re working with plant managers to try and contain the leak. BioLab’s Lake Charles plant was built in 1979 and manufactures trichloroisocyanuric acid, chlorinating granules and other chemicals used in such household cleaners as Comet bleach scrub and pool chlorine powder.
Both trichloroisocyanuric acid and chlorine are potentially acutely toxic to people and animals if ingested or inhaled. Chlorine gas, which can appear in the air as a greenish yellow cloud, was used as a chemical weapon in World War 1. It is a potent irritant to the eyes, throat and lungs.
LAKE CHARLES, La. — A Confederate general has fallen victim to Hurricane Laura. The South’s Defenders monument has stood since 1915 outside a courthouse in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where local authorities voted 10-4 this month to keep it in place.
Critics call it a symbol of racism that glorifies slavery. But a Calcasieu Parish official said they asked for public comments, and got 878 written responses against relocating the monument, and only 67 in favor of moving it.
Now the pedestal is empty, and the Confederate statue is in pieces on the ground, victim to a Category 4 hurricane that struck the city early Thursday.
LAKE CHARLES, La. — A large chemical fire has sent a dangerous cloud over Lake Charles, Louisiana, hours after the eye of Hurricane Laura passed directly over the city.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards says the fire was burning Thursday morning just outside the city, and he’s advising storm survivors to shelter in place.
Edwards tweeted that people “in the Westlake/Moss Bluff/Sulphur area” should close their windows and doors and turn off their air conditioning units.
MIAMI — The National Hurricane Center says Laura remains a hurricane, sustaining top winds of 75 mph (120 kph) more than 170 miles (274 kilometers) after landfall.
The powerful storm struck land near Cameron on the southwest Louisiana coast at about 1 a.m. Thursday. Nine hours later, it was about 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of Natchitoches, Louisiana, and had not yet weakened into a tropical storm.
The hurricane is expected to keep drenching Louisiana and then Arkansas as a tropical storm, causing widespread flash flooding and damage from winds. It was moving north near 16 mph (26 kph).
LAKE CHARLES, La. — Reports are coming in from people who rode out Hurricane Laura in Louisiana.
Brett Geymann lives in Moss Bluff, just north of Lake Charles, and said the eye of the storm passed directly over them. He says his house survived but every other building, structure and tree on his property is gone.
Geymann says his family’s OK but “there’s destruction all around” them.
He says “It looks like 1,000 tornadoes” came through, with some houses “totally gone.”
Drone video in the Lake Charles area shows water surrounding homes with large parts of their roofs peeled off, hotels with rooms exposed and giant trees uprooted.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Hurricane Laura is headed toward Arkansas, where an unusual tropical storm warning has been issued for much of the state.
The storm is hitting during the state’s first week back at public school since March. Many schools in the southern half of Arkansas opted to cancel classes Thursday or dismiss early because of the storm.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared an emergency and set aside $250,000 for the state to prepare for the hurricane’s impact. Hutchinson said the state will have search and rescue teams on standby.
Laura is now a Category 1 hurricane but still blowing hard enough to be deadly. The first reported death, of a girl whose house was hit by a tree, was in Leesburg, more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) inland from the coast.
LAKE CHARLES, La. — Early reports emerging in the wake of Hurricane Laura show less damage than what was feared.
The eye passed directly over Lake Charles, where drone video shows roofs ripped off, exposing living rooms to the elements; trees downed and water overflowing the banks of coastal properties.
But Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter Gaynor says the damage seems to be less than what they feared with Laura hitting the coast as a potentially catastrophic Category 4 hurricane early Thursday.
Gaynor told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the surge turned out to be less than what was forecast, but he expects significant wind damage to buildings once they do proper surveys of the disaster area.
Louisiana State Police Maj. Doug Cain said they received a report that the Isle of Capri’s riverboat casino broke from its mooring and was stuck against the Interstate 10 bridge in Lake Charles. The casino says its Grand Palais riverboat houses 34 table games and more than 1,175 slot machines.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said he’s received report of the first fatality from Hurricane Laura in Louisiana, a 14-year-old girl who died when a tree fell on her home in Leesburg.
The governors of Louisiana and Texas say search and rescue teams are still looking, but they’ve found no reports so far of widespread fatalities.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is crediting the evacuations of thousands of people for preventing deaths in Texas. Edwards says they are only beginning to assess the damage.
Both governors say the storm surge appears to have been not as bad as they feared.
Abbott said the hurricane’s storm surge hit the east Texas communities of Port Arthur, Beaumont and Orange “pretty hard” overnight and the eye of the hurricane has continued to move about 100 miles (161 kilometers) north along the Texas-Louisiana state line.
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