Hurricane Laura has barrelled through southwest Louisiana, destroying buildings in the city of Lake Charles and killing a 14-year-old girl after making landfall as one of the most powerful storms to hit the US state.
The hurricane’s first reported US fatality was a 14-year-old girl in Leesville, Louisiana, who died when a tree fell on her house, a spokeswoman for Governor John Bel Edwards said.
“We do expect that there could be more fatalities,” the spokeswoman said on Twitter.
Residents of Lake Charles heard Laura’s winds howling and the sound of breaking glass as the storm passed through the city of 78,000 with winds of 137 km per hour and gusts up to 206 kph in the hour after landfall.
The windows of the city’s 22-floor Capital One Tower were blown out, street signs were toppled and pieces of wooden fence and debris from collapsed buildings lay scattered in the streets, video footage on Twitter and Snapchat showed.
Lake Charles resident Borden Wilson, a 33-year-old pediatrician, was anxiously anticipating his return home after evacuating to Minden, Louisiana.
“I never even boarded up my windows. I didn’t think to do that. This is the first hurricane I’ve experienced. I just hope my house is fine,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview.
Laura made landfall just before 1am local time as a Category 4 storm packing winds of 240 kph in the small town of Cameron, Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center said.
It rapidly weakened to a Category 2 storm on Thursday morning with maximum sustained winds of 160 kph and was forecast to become a tropical storm later in the day.