Saturated Louisiana Faces Hurricane Watch
NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Tropical Storm Bill headed for the Gulf Coast with wind and heavy rain Monday, and emergency officials across already saturated south Louisiana braced for the threat of flooding.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami issued a hurricane watch for the Louisiana coast. The storm had sustained wind of about 50 mph but forecasters said that wind could speed up to 74 mph, or hurricane strength, by the time Bill’s eye made landfall later Monday.
Rainfall could total up to 8 inches when the storm crosses the coast, forecasters said.
``Certainly, it’s not as dangerous as other storms we’ve had, but it is a dangerous storm,″ Jim Ballow, assistant chief of operations for the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness, said Monday.
Ballow said the New Orleans metropolitan area, which was expected to be on the east side of the storm’s path, likely would be in for heavy rain. The ground already is largely saturated by rain over the past two weeks that was heavy enough to cause street flooding, he said.
In the New Iberia area, where 10 1/2 inches of rainfall flooded about 35 homes less than two weeks ago, authorities spent Sunday readying rescue equipment such as high-clearance vehicles and watercraft.
``We’re making sure everything is fueled up and staged at strategic points in the parish so we can deal with the rain,″ said Iberia Parish Sheriff Sid Hebert. ``We’re already dealing with ground conditions more saturated than we’re used to for this time of year. ... That’s our concern, not so much the wind.″
New Orleans Emergency Preparedness Director Larry Tuiller said several of the city’s flood gates were closed. Residents were urged to stay home if possible Monday.
Tropical storm warnings were in effect from High Island, Texas, to Pascagoula, Warnings mean tropical storm conditions are expected in the area, generally within 24 hours.
At 8 a.m. EDT, the storm was centered 90 miles south-southwest of Morgan City and moving north at about 14 mph, forecasters said. Tropical storm-force wind extended out 145 miles.
The year’s first tropical storm, Ana, formed in the open Atlantic in April and was a threat only to shipping. Systems become tropical storms when their sustained wind exceeds 39 mph.
Ana was rare in that it developed before the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season, June 1. The season runs through Nov. 30.
Bill formed just after the 46th anniversary of Hurricane Audrey, one of the most destructive June hurricanes to hit the United States. It struck the Louisiana-Texas coast on June 27, 1957, with a 13.9-foot storm tide and wind gusting to 180 mph. It killed at least 390 people and estimates run to more than 500.
On the Net:
National Hurricane Center: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/