Tropical Storm Prompts Warning for La.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Tropical Storm Bill churned toward the Gulf Coast on Monday, causing emergency officials across an already saturated south Louisiana to brace for the prospect of flooding.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami issued a hurricane watch for the Louisiana coast. The storm was producing sustained winds of about 50 mph but forecasters said winds 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 moves across the southern Louisiana coast later in the day, forecasters 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 flood water 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.″
In New Orleans, Emergency Preparedness Director Larry Tuiller said several of the city’s flood gates were closed. Residents were being advised to stay home if possible Monday, even though rain was relatively light Sunday night.
Tropical storm warnings were also issued from High Island, Texas, to Pascagoula, Miss. Warnings mean tropical storm conditions are expected in the area, generally within 24 hours.
At 8 a.m. EDT, the storm was 90 miles south-southwest of Morgan City and moving north at about 14 mph, forecasters said. Tropical storm force winds 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/