Casinos along the Gulf Coast, still reeling from last year’s deadly hurricanes, were bracing Friday for a storm targeting the Louisiana shoreline. In 2020, casinos in Louisiana and Mississippi were damaged during strong storms.
On Thursday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) issued a state of emergency, citing rainfall as the “biggest threat” from Tropical Cyclone 3.
By late Thursday, the storm was barreling toward New Orleans. It was expected to make landfall late Friday or early Saturday.
As it headed north up the Gulf of Mexico, the system was expected to strengthen into Tropical Storm Claudette. Tropical storms pack sustained winds of 39-73 mph. Much of the damage from these weather systems come from rainfall and storm surges. The storms also can spin off tornados.
With parts of New Orleans at 9.84 feet below sea level, the city is at risk for flooding from heavy rainfall and storm surges during severe weather. New Orleans is bordered by Lake Pontchartrain on the north and the Mississippi River on the south.
During the storm this week, rainfall of up to six inches or more was expected from New Orleans through the Mississippi Gulf Coast and eastward into the Florida panhandle.
The New Orleans area is home to one land-based casino, one racino, and three riverboat casinos. In Mississippi, 12 of the state’s 26 commercial casinos are along the Gulf Coast. Eight coastal casinos are in the Biloxi area.
Recalling last year’s deadly Gulf Coast storms, Edwards posted a tweet late this week, warning Louisiana residents about the hazards of power generators.
“We lost Louisianans last year to carbon monoxide poisoning from running power generators indoors,” the governor tweeted. “Be safe this hurricane season and be sure that if you lose power, you run your generator outdoors and away from your home.”
The 2021 hurricane season began June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.
This year, 18 named storms are predicted to develop in the Atlantic Basin during hurricane season. The average from 1991 to 2020 has been 15. As many as five of these storms this year are projected to be major hurricanes.
Colorado State University scientists said one reason for this increase in storms is that warmer-than-average Atlantic waters are “providing fuel” for the turbulent weather, according to CBS News.
Last year, a record 30 named storms developed during the Atlantic hurricane season. Of those, 12 made landfall in the US, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Five hit Louisiana.
Two deadly hurricanes, Laura and Delta, roared ashore in South Louisiana only six weeks apart, shredding the Lake Charles area both times. In August, the unoccupied Isle of Capri riverboat casino in Lake Charles came unmoored during Hurricane Laura and struck a bridge. The casino is expected to reopen next year
Several other casinos were damaged during the major storms that barreled ashore along the Gulf Coast last year.
In October, fast-moving Hurricane Zeta ripped through New Orleans and swamped casinos east of there along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The record number of storms that struck the Gulf Coast last year took an economic toll on the casino industry. Josh Hirsberg, Boyd Gaming’s chief financial officer, said the storms had an impact of up to $5 million on the Nevada-based company. Boyd Gaming has five properties in Louisiana and two in Mississippi.