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UPDATE 3-Louisiana residents flee as Hurricane Delta bears down on U.S. Gulf Coast

(New throughout, adds storm weakening, updates wind speed, adds mobile weather radar set up)

LAKE CHARLES, La., Oct 9 (Reuters) - The streets in this southwest Louisiana city were deserted on Friday as Hurricane Delta approached, threatening to add misery to people struggling to recover from the damage inflicted by a hurricane less than two months ago.

Delta was a Category 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale early Friday, packing winds of 115 miles per hour (185 kph) and soaking parts of the state with heavy rain. New Orleans will see only gusty winds, forecasters said, but central and southwest communities could face a “life threatening” storm surge of up to 11 feet (3.3 meters).

“In this community, there are a lot of homes that were damaged and so a lot of people are concerned about staying in that structure again,” Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said in an interview.

Hurricane Laura, which struck the city in late August, “is still very fresh and very raw and I think that had something to do with more people evacuating for Delta,” Hunter said.

Schools and government offices were closed, residents boarded windows and moved out of the storm’s path in several parishes. Officials ordered evacuations in those communities facing the second major hurricane in as many months.

“I know people in Louisiana, especially the southwest, are very strong and very resilient, but they are going to be tested here,” Governor John Bel Edwards said at a Thursday news conference.

Forecast models show Delta making landfall as a category 2 hurricane by Friday evening, according to the National Weather Service. It could also unleash tornadoes as it moves over land and drop up to 10 inches (25 cm) of rain.

Laura damaged tens of thousands of homes, leaving roofs throughout the region dotted with protective blue tarps, and left more than 6,000 people still living temporarily in hotels.

Along a pasture east of Lake Charles, Addison Alford manned a mobile weather radar station brought in from Oklahoma on Thursday because the permanent station was damaged during Laura.

He and a colleague plan to ride out the storm from inside a heavy vehicle equipped a radar dish. “We’re really trying to make sure the data streams stay up during the entire event,” he said.

Cities along the Gulf Coast from Galveston, Texas, to New Orleans are experiencing gusty winds, rain and local flooding. Louisiana and Mississippi received federal emergency declaration that will bring additional resources to the region.

Energy companies halted 92%, or nearly 1.7 million barrels per day of offshore oil output, and 62% of natural gas production, data showed. The U.S. Coast Guard closed ports from Beaumont, Texas, to Lake Charles ahead of the storm.

When Delta reaches the northern Gulf Coast, it will be the 10th named storm to make a U.S. landfall this year, eclipsing a record that has stood since 1916. (Reporting by Stephanie Kelly in Baton Rouge Writing and additional reporting by Gary McWilliams in Houston; Editing by David Gregorio, Raju Gopalakrishnan, Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy)

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