Clean-up and salvage efforts are underway in Louisiana, one day after Hurricane Lili carved a path of destruction through parts of the state. While assessing damage, officials are expressing relief that no storm-related deaths have been reported. Lili has since weakened to a tropical depression but continues to dump rain over parts of the southern United States.
Tens of thousands of Louisiana residents have returned to the towns they evacuated two days ago to find roofs and siding ripped from houses and businesses, windows blown out of homes and vehicles, and uprooted trees and telephone poles scattered like mangled matchsticks.
Coastal resident Bob Jones said he was gravely worried about how his home fared in the storm. "When you have five feet (1.6 meters) of water inside your house, you have got to be anxious to get back to see what is there," he explained.
Lili came ashore from the Gulf of Mexico Thursday packing winds in excess of 145-kilometers an hour. The storm blew tractor trailers onto their sides, ripped pumps out of gasoline stations and sent debris hurtling through the air. Lili caused fierce storm surges and brought massive flooding to coastal regions. Hundreds of thousands of people remain without power.
President Bush has declared a disaster in Louisiana, making the state eligible for federal aid. Damage assessments may take several days to complete and the clean-up and recovery effort will continue for weeks to come.
Even so, many residents say they feel lucky. Lili's winds reached a fearsome 225-kilometers an hour as the storm bore down on the state, only to lessen in intensity just before the weather system made landfall.
Last week, Louisiana was struck by another storm, Isidore, which inflicted $100 million worth of damage. State officials say Lili will prove to be a far more costly storm than Isidore.