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After making landfall as one of the strongest storms to hit Louisiana on record, Hurricane Laura steamrolled up through the state on Thursday, leaving a trail of far-flung damage in its wake.
The storm, which came ashore near Cameron, Louisiana, after midnight as a Category 4 hurricane, brought 150 mph winds and a major storm surge out of the Gulf, ripping the facades off brick buildings in Lake Charles, and swatting telephone poles to the ground. Laura weakened as it moved inland, but remained destructive, with strong winds and heavy rain, and the potential to spawn deadly tornadoes.
Four deaths have been tied to the storm in Louisiana. The first confirmed death was that of a 14-year-old girl in Leesville, a small city about 100 miles inland. According to the Louisiana governor’s office, the girl was killed when a tree fell on her family’s home.
A 68-year-old man near Iota, Louisiana, also was killed by a tree falling on a residence, according to Sheriff K.P. Gibson of Acadia Parish. And another storm death in Jackson Parish was confirmed by the governor’s office.
At 1 p.m. Central time, the storm was centered near Summerfield, Louisiana, just south of the Arkansas border, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm was trudging north-northeast at 15 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph — below the Category 1 hurricane range — and it was expected to diminish to a tropical depression as it passes through Arkansas.
People in southwestern Louisiana described severe damage to buildings and vehicles, apparently more from the storm’s punishing winds than from its much-feared storm surge.
Landfall came after officials in both Louisiana and Texas issued the gravest of warnings about the storm, which was among the strongest ever to hit the United States and tied for the strongest ever to hit Louisiana, according to data compiled by Philip Klotzbach, a research scientist at Colorado State University who studies hurricanes.
But Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said on Thursday afternoon that it could have been much worse.
“It is clear that we did not sustain and suffer the absolute catastrophic damage that we thought was likely,” Edwards said. “But we have sustained a tremendous amount of damage.”
About 600,000 service locations were without electric power in the state, Edwards said.