New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell updates residents on Category 4 Hurricane Delta on Oct. 6, 2020. (Michael Isaac Stein/The Lens)

On Tuesday afternoon, for the sixth time this year, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell held a press conference warning residents to stay vigilant as officials track the unpredictable path of a major storm headed for the Louisiana Gulf Coast. Hurricane Delta rapidly intensified into a Category 4 hurricane this morning and is currently bearing down on the Yucatan Peninsula. The storm is projected to make landfall on Louisiana’s coast late Friday. 

While earlier projections showed the storm making a near direct hit with New Orleans, the latest projection from the National Hurricane Center shows the storm tracking farther West, putting New Orleans on the far right edge of the forecast “cone.” But Cantrell warned that the storm’s path was far from certain.

“We’re behind the eight ball,” Cantrell said. 

The new projection shows the hurricane likely making landfall in southwest Louisiana, much of which is still reeling from Hurricane Laura, which brought massive devastation to the Lake Charles area in late August. New Orleans is still housing 6,100 evacuees from Hurricane Laura, Cantrell said on Tuesday.

It’s been a busy hurricane season, with 25 named storms so far. And several storms have quickly intensified into major, dangerous storms. Both the high frequency and rapid intensification of hurricanes have been linked to climate change. 

“This is the sixth time this hurricane season that I’ve stood here and asked people to be ready,” said Colin Arnold, director of the city’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. “We’ve had 5 near misses. We need to watch this one very carefully.”

Arnold said that the main threats to the city from Hurricane Delta will be flooding from intense rainfall over a short period of time and storm force winds that could knock down trees and cause power outages. He said the city wasn’t issuing evacuation orders for areas outside the levee system today, but that “it stands to reason that we will have to address the areas outside the levee system” when better modeling comes in tomorrow. 

“Gather your emergency supplies, pay attention, heed warnings and please check on neighbors and loved ones,” Arnold said. 

He also encouraged people to sign up for text alerts from the city by texting “DELTA” to 888777. 

The city is setting up at least five sandbag distribution centers which will open Wednesday at 8am. Arnold warned that typically, supplies only last for about four hours after they’re made available. The five locations are spread out the city and can be found on the NOLA Ready website. During the press conference, Cantrell said that the city would also set up an additional distribution location in the Ninth Ward. 

Sewerage and Water Board General Superintendent Mike Turner spoke on Tuesday and said that 98 out of 99 of the city’s drainage pumps were working, and that they hoped to have all 99 in service by Friday morning. He said that one out of three underpass pumps at the Press Street station was out of service, but that he didn’t foresee any issues as a result. 

Michael Isaac Stein

Michael Isaac Stein covers New Orleans' cultural economy and local government for The Lens. Before joining the staff, he freelanced for The Lens as well as The Intercept, CityLab, The New Republic, and...