The death toll from Hurricane Laura has risen to at least 14, as residents along the Louisiana and Texas coasts commenced a large-scale clean-up operation after being pummeled by the Category 4 storm.
On Friday, thousands of people who heeded dire warnings and fled the Gulf Coast returned to homes without roofs, roads littered with debris and the likelihood of a harsh recovery that could take months.
Hundreds of thousands of people across the two states are still without water and power, and the basic services may not be reinstalled for weeks.
The storm is estimated to have caused up to $12 billion in damage.
Meanwhile, additional;fatalities were confirmed in both Texas and Louisiana, with five people now confirmed to have been killed by fallen trees.
Eight people died from carbon monoxide poisoning due to unsafe operation of generators, including three inside a Texas pool hall, where authorities say the owner had let Vietnamese shrimp boat laborers and homeless men take shelter.
At least one person also drowned in a boat.
The lack of essential resources was grim for the many evacuated residents eager to return.
Louisiana resident Chad Peterson told the Associated Press he planned to board up a window and head to Florida.
‘There´s no power. There´s no water. There´s no utilities,’ he said.
Resident ‘Lee’ Faulk came back to a home with no roof in hard-hit Cameron Parish, which was littered with downed power lines.
His metal storage building, 24 feet square, was thrown into a neighbor’s oak trees.
‘We need help,’ Faulk said. ‘We need ice, water, blue tarps – everything that you would associate with the storm, we need it. Like two hours ago.’
The White House said President Donald Trump would visit the region Saturday and survey the damage.
Lake Charles, a city of 80,000 residents that sustained some of the worst damage, is littered with fallen power lines and tree blocked paths.
Driving through the area is hazardous, as street signs have been snapped off their perches and stoplights are not working.
Mayor Nic Hunter cautioned that there was no timetable for restoring electricity and that water-treatment plants ‘took a beating,’ resulting in barely a trickle of water coming out of most faucets.
‘If you come back to Lake Charles to stay, make sure you understand the above reality and are prepared to live in it for many days, probably weeks,’ Hunter wrote on Facebook.
Caravans of utility trucks were met Friday by thunderstorms in the sizzling heat, complicating recovery efforts.
Forty nursing homes were also relying on generators, and assessments were underway to determine if more than 860 residents in 11 facilities that had been evacuated could return. Water outages remained a major problem in evacuated facilities, the Louisiana Department of Health said.
Meanwhile, the hurricane’s remnants threatened to bring flooding and tornadoes to Tennessee as the storm, now a tropical depression, drifted north. Forecasters warned that the system could strengthen into a tropical storm again upon returning to the Atlantic Ocean this weekend.
In the storm’s wake, more than 600,000 homes and businesses were without power in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility reports.
The Louisiana Department of Health estimated that more than 220,000 people were without water. Restoration of those services could take weeks or months, and full rebuilding could take years.
Ira Lyles returned to find that his downtown Lake Charles salon called The Parlor House survived with little damage, but his home was destroyed.
‘It tore the front off, tore the front of the roof off, picked up my camper trailer and hit the side wall, and the side wall buckled and cracked inside,’ he told The Associated Press.
Edwards called Laura, which packed a top wind speed of 150 mph (241 kph), the most powerful hurricane to strike Louisiana, meaning it surpassed even Katrina, which was a Category 3 storm when it hit in 2005.
He said Friday that officials now believe the surge was as high as 15 feet.
More than 580,000 coastal residents were put under evacuation as the hurricane gained strength in the Gulf of Mexico. Laura was the seventh named storm to strike the U.S. this year, setting a new record for U.S. landfalls by the end of August. Laura hit the U.S. after killing nearly two dozen people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.