The mayor of a city in southwestern Louisiana that's still cleaning up from devastation from Hurricane Laura urged residents on Thursday they should get out while there's still time as the next storm bears down.
"Please know that I cannot assure you that Calcasieu Parish is gonna be a safe place this weekend,” he said. “In fact, I'm telling you that I don't think it will be a safe place to be here this weekend."
Thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed by Laura in the region. Many salvageable houses still are covered in blue tarps awaiting roof repairs or rebuilding. On Wednesday evening, Calcasieu Parish issued a mandatory evacuation order, which includes the city of Lake Charles.
"If you are staying and your home made it through Laura, don't think that home is going to make it through Hurricane Delta," Hunter said.
The mayor told viewers on Facebook that people without transportation should go to a city bus stop and head to the local convention center, where state-administered buses will take them away from the area to a shelter site elsewhere in the state.
"We're asking you to take this seriously," he said.
Hunter, who shared the latest track for Hurricane Delta "does not look good for Lake Charles," said that people need to evacuate, need to leave town. He also said that the window of opportunity to evacuate the area is closing, with conditions expected to deteriorate by Friday morning.
“I know that we’ve been through a lot and I know that we’re tired. But we have a job to do right now, and that job is to keep ourselves safe,” Hunter said.
Nearly six weeks after Laura made landfall on Aug. 27, 5,600 people remain in New Orleans hotels because their homes are too damaged to occupy. Trees, roofs and other debris left in Laura’s wake still sit by roadsides waiting for pickup even as forecasters warned that Delta could be a larger than an average storm.
Lake Charles residents spent Wednesday rushing to prepare, loading up on plywood, sheetrock and any other materials they could find to protect their homes.
"This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime deals," Lake Charles resident Robert Colston Jr. told KTRK-TV. "The chance of you getting hit by a hurricane within a 60-day period is unlikely to happen, but it probably will happen."
The large majority of structures damaged by Laura haven’t been permanently repaired, Gov. John Bel Edwards noted on Wednesday.
“All that debris could become missiles in really strong wind,” said Edwards, who also worried about the “sheer anxiety” the storm could cause already traumatized residents.
“We don’t want a hurricane to hit anywhere, but we know that the area that is least prepared and ready for a storm happens to be southwest Louisiana,” he said.
Edwards said President Trump approved his request to declare a federal emergency, which frees up federal resources.
This is the sixth time in the Atlantic hurricane season that people in Louisiana have been forced to flee the state's barrier islands and sail boats to safe harbor due to a busy 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.
Forecasters from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warn that the storm could make landfall on Friday with winds up to 100 mph and a storm surge of up to 11 feet. Over 10 million are under hurricane, storm surge, or tropical storm warnings as the storm approaches.
Delta has a chance to strengthen to a major hurricane – Category 3 or higher – once again before making landfall across Louisiana on Friday with hurricane-force winds, life-threatening storm surge, heavy rain, and flooding.
"It is expected to strengthen again to a major hurricane before making landfall tomorrow afternoon and, unfortunately, it is hitting almost the same region as Hurricane Laura did six weeks ago," Dean said.
Some tornadoes will also be possible, especially east of where the center of the system comes ashore. The greatest threat of tornadoes is in southern parts of Louisiana and Mississippi starting late Wednesday night.
Rainfall of 5-10 inches will be possible with some isolated spots receiving over a foot.
Fox News' Janice Dean and the Associated Press contributed to this report.