Delta’s center is about 130 miles south of Louisiana. It remains a Category 3 major hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph.
The storm is “expected to bring hurricane conditions and a life-threatening storm surge to portions of the northern Gulf Coast later today,” the National Hurricane Center said.
About 5 million people are under flash flood watches from Louisiana through southwest Tennessee. Rainfall could exceed flash flood levels across most of Louisiana, the National Weather Service says. Rain totals could reach 6 to 10 inches or more in the storm’s direct path, forecasters say.
“We believe that there will be hurricane force winds and storm surge in southwest Louisiana in the area of our state that is least prepared to take it,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday, urging residents to create a game plan to face the storm.
Mandatory evacuation orders are in place in communities including Cameron Parish and Calcasieu Parish, home to Lake Charles. West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital in Sulphur began evacuating patients Thursday “out of an abundance of caution” to medical centers around Baton Rouge and New Orleans, with only a core team staying on site, according to a news release.
A hurricane warning is in effect for High Island, Texas, to Morgan City, Louisiana, and a storm surge warning is in place from High Island to the coastal Louisiana-Mississippi border, according to the National Hurricane Center.
‘I’m packing up to leave again’
Some residents are sticking around, but the parish has a “pretty good evacuation rate” and is geared up to assist people sheltering in place, he said. Deputies were still patrolling the roads but would be pulled when winds reach 50 to 60 mph.
In a last call to get residents evacuated, Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said Thursday afternoon that city employees would move “heaven and earth” to help anyone who wanted to leave the city ahead of the storm.
“I’m packing up to leave again,” Boullion told the affiliate. “I’m just hoping that I have something to come back to.”
A tropical storm warning was in effect in parts of Texas and Louisiana, including New Orleans, where Mayor LaToya Cantrell said she was “very much concerned about” the possibility of tornadoes.
Mississippi National Guard resources on ready
“Texans in the path of this storm should continue to heed the guidance and direction of local officials, remain cautious, and remember – Turn Around, Don’t Drown,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a news release.
Meanwhile, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Thursday the state has sent out resources to help communities and will deploy National Guard resources as well if needed.
Officials there also warned of the possibility of tornadoes in the state, as well as heavy rain.
“We anticipate the storm, or at least what’s left of the eye of it will only spend about 30 hours in Mississippi,” Reeves said. “During that time, we do expect significant rainfall, up to four to six inches in the southwestern counties, and maybe in some of the western Delta counties that are on the Mississippi River.”
Abbott this week declared a state of emergency “in anticipation of damage” and urged residents to “prep for the worst.”
CNN’s Maggie Fox and Hira Humayun contributed to this report.