By the Associated Press
Laura has weakened to a tropical storm after blasting the Louisiana coast with high winds and heavy rain for hours. The system that came ashore as a Category 4 hurricane is being blamed for four deaths and widespread damage around Lake Charles, an industrial and casino city of 80,000 people. It is the most powerful storm to hit the U.S. this year.
Forecasters predicted an unsurvivable storm surge. More than 580,000 people were ordered to evacuate, but at least some stayed behind. Rescuers have to wait for winds to die down before looking for survivors. Laura is now headed toward Arkansas.
A fire with billowing smoke has residents around a chlorine plant sheltering in place after Hurricane Laura raked Louisiana’s industrial Lake Charles area. Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Greg Langley says there’s no indication of a chlorine leak so far, however. Firefighters are working the fire at the BioLab plant. The flames were detected after daylight following a night of fierce winds from the hurricane. Authorities also closed a stretch of Interstate 10 near the plant. Langley says no other major industrial incidents have been reported so far in the hurricane’s aftermath.