NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Hurricane Delta Roars Ashore In Louisiana


Hundreds of thousands of people are without power in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Delta slammed ashore in Louisiana last night. It hit with sustained winds of 100 miles per hour and a 10-foot tidal surge. Delta made landfall in the same area ravaged by Hurricane Laura that pummeled the state just six weeks ago.

NPR's John Burnett joins us from Lafayette, La. John, thanks for being with us.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: You were hit hard where you were, right?

BURNETT: Pretty hard, yeah.

SIMON: What was it like? What's the latest?

BURNETT: Delta came ashore right where forecasters said it would. The eyewall crossed the little unincorporated Cajun village of Creole between Lake Charles and Lafayette. Thankfully, these are mostly unpopulated areas known for their wildlife refuges and wetlands. We can't get out and see the damage yet, but it looks like the towns of Lake Arthur and Jennings and Crowley took a good whooping. And then there's Lake Charles, which took that direct hit from a hurricane in late August and is still recovering.

SIMON: And do we know anything about what it's like in Lake Charles today?

BURNETT: Well, not yet. But thankfully, the storm took a course slightly east of Lake Charles. And Delta was a Category 2 - still strong, but not a Category 4, like Laura. And Lake Charles was already in a world of trouble from that earlier hurricane. Hundreds of houses had blue tarps on their rooftops where the earlier storm had blown away pieces of the house. Those were probably ripped off. Debris was piled in heaps on the curbs, and the wind could've scattered that all over the city again.

SIMON: John, you've seen a lot of hurricanes. You were in Lafayette last night. What was it like?

BURNETT: Scott, Delta was a breathtaking weather system. The eastern edge of the eye went right over us here in Lafayette. And, you know, I've covered so many of these tropical cyclones down here, and they never cease to awe me. The rain blows sideways in rippling sheets. And the wind comes in these great gusts, and it strains limbs and buildings.

And then everything felt quiet around 7 o'clock. And I was tempted to take a stroll onto the University of Louisiana campus, which is right next to us. And as quickly as the wind stopped, it roared to life again. Then the power went out, and the city went dark. And all you heard was this relentless wind and things breaking and flailing all around. And I wondered what the city would look like when dawn came.

SIMON: Yeah. Were you able to speak with anybody?

BURNETT: Actually, I did just before it got really bad outside. I drove around town looking for something to eat, and I came on a big red taco truck on University Avenue. It was bucking and shaking in these early hurricane winds, but there was an open sign in the windshield. It was Taqueria El Dolar, the dollar taco truck. I walked up to the window and found the proprietor, Miguel Brambila, happy to get me some pork and spicy beef tacos. And he said I was their only customer in three hours.

MIGUEL BRAMBILA: (Non-English language spoken).

BURNETT: He said, "all the other restaurants are closed, and whether it rains or snows, we'll always be open. We have to eat, and this is how we make money." He said they were a little afraid of these winds, but if it got too bad, they were going to shut the taco truck and hunker down in their houses.

And then his partner, Daniel Carrillo, spoke up. And because it's election season, he got a little political.

DANIEL CARRILLO: (Non-English language spoken).

BURNETT: So he said - talking about President Trump, he said, "he can't throw us out. We're the ones who work the hardest doing the work Americans don't want to do." And he concluded, "just like this, selling tacos in the middle of a hurricane." And as far as I could tell, Taqueria El Dolar was the only place to get a hot meal in Lafayette during Hurricane Delta.

SIMON: Boy, what a scene. NPR's John Burnett in Lafayette, thanks so much.

BURNETT: You bet, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news and other national assignments. In 2018, 2019 and again in 2020, he won national Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for continuing coverage of the immigration beat. In 2020, Burnett along with other NPR journalists, were finalists for a duPont-Columbia Award for their coverage of the Trump Administration's Remain in Mexico program. In December 2018, Burnett was invited to participate in a workshop on Refugees, Immigration and Border Security in Western Europe, sponsored by the RIAS Berlin Commission.