About 700,000 residents in the two states remain without electricity, and 8 million are still under a flash flood watch, with heavy rain and isolated tornadoes forecast.
A heat advisory is in effect until Saturday night for more than 30 million people in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas, the National Weather Service says. Heat indices could reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit on Friday and Saturday.
“If you come back to Lake Charles to stay, make sure you understand the … reality and are prepared to live in it for many days, probably weeks,” the mayor wrote. “‘Look and Leave’ truly is the best option for many.”
Laura made landfall early Thursday near Cameron, Louisiana, as a Category 4 hurricane, packing winds of about 150 mph. Areas across the coast were pounded by ferocious winds and an unforgiving storm surge that left some neighborhoods littered with debris.
Gov. John Bel Edwards toured the worst-impacted areas of his state. “The last couple of days have been hard, and the road to recover won’t be easy. But we will recover,” he said Friday morning in a tweet.
Edwards also warned of “risks left behind by the storm.” He has expressed concerns this week about Covid-19 after Laura.
At least six deaths were reported across the state following the storm. Four people died after trees fell: a 14-year-old girl in Vernon Parish; a 51-year-old man in Jackson Parish; a 60-year-old man in Acadia Parish; and a 64-year-old man in Allen Parish, authorities have said.
Two people died in Calcasieu Parish: A 24-year-old man and another male who’s age hasn’t been disclosed by state officials.
Tropical depression heads toward Missouri
Early Friday morning, Laura crossed Arkansas and trekked toward southeastern Missouri as a tropical depression with winds of 35 mph. In preparation for the storm, Arkansas sent out search and rescue teams along with National Guard members to assist.
Throughout the day, the storm will head across Kentucky and continue eastward until it heads off the coast through New Jersey and Delaware by Saturday evening.
Laura’s expected to dump up to 6 inches of rain over central and northern Arkansas Friday, while parts of southern Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri may see isolated rain totals of up to 5 inches.
The rain may likely lead to flash flooding along streams, roads and urban areas and to moderate river flooding in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas, the National Hurricane Center said.
Parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi are at the highest risk for tornadoes Friday, while that risk will shift Saturday to Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware and parts of Pennsylvania.
‘I’ve never seen this kind of damage’
Many who evacuated ahead of the storm were afraid of what they may find when they return to their homes. The storm damaged roofs and walls, ripped street signs from the ground, snapped trees and bent lamp posts.
In Lafayette, Louisiana, Brandon Montgomery’s home was spared Thursday from flooding and wind damage. But his neighbor wasn’t as lucky: At least a foot of water flooded that home.
Flooding in their neighborhood began overnight Thursday, and by that morning, the water had risen to about 3 feet high.
In downtown Lake Charles, two residents couldn’t find a single person to talk to amid the devastation, they told WVUE.
“I’ve never seen this kind of damage,” one said. Footage of the city shows store signs on the floor, shattered windows, destroyed tents and debris all over the roads.
“There’s a lot of damage. People are going to need a lot of help around here,” said Paul Heard, who was in Lake Charles as the storm came in. Heard left his house and took shelter in his car just as the storm was pulling parts of the roof early Thursday, he said.
As he watched from 25 feet away, he “could see my roof was heaving up and down several inches,” he told CNN.
CNN’s Rob Shackelford, Jason Hanna, Madeline Holcombe and Theresa Waldrop, Joe Sutton and Kelsie Smith contributed to this report.