Lili Prompts Texas, La. Evac Orders
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NEW IBERIA, La. (AP) _ Coastal Louisiana residents headed north Wednesday as Hurricane Lili churned through the Gulf of Mexico packing 132 mph winds on a track to hit the state’s central or southwestern coast.
Lili was expected to make landfall Thursday afternoon and its approach sparked a familiar hurricane ritual _ deciding when to leave, where to go, what to take and what to leave behind.
``We’re putting the TVs in plastic bags, just in case we get a broken window. But the computer’s coming with us,″ said Danielle Thibodaux of Abbeville, La., who was packing for a trip to central Louisiana with family members.
Evacuations were either ordered or recommended in low-lying parts of six Louisiana parishes. State officials had no estimate of the number of people involved.
Over 300,000 Texas residents also were ordered to evacuate as forecasters held out the possibility Lili could veer west of its forecast track.
A hurricane warning stretched from just east of High Island, Texas, to the mouth of the Mississippi River in southeastern Louisiana. The National Weather Service dubbed Lili a dangerous Category 4 storm, its eye expected to cross the coastline Thursday afternoon.
Tropical storm conditions were possible west to Freeport, Texas, and east to the Alabama-Florida state line.
Residents of Jefferson and Orange counties in Texas were told to evacuate in anticipation of tidal surges of more than 9 feet on Thursday. Galveston County issued a call for voluntary evacuations.
Southeastern Louisiana, still drying out from last week’s Tropical Storm Isidore, braced for more rain from the storm’s outer bands.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin urged residents to stay indoors after midnight, when winds of more than 40 mph were expected.
Grand Isle, the storm-vulnerable barrier island south of New Orleans, was ordered evacuated Wednesday morning even as workers completed repairs on a 2,500 section of levee washed out by Isidore. The island has 1,500 residents.
Most of the activity, however, was farther west. Wilson Miller, a ranch hand from the town of Gueydan, stocked up on cigarettes, sandwiches and soft drinks at a gas station near Interstate 10 as he and relatives fled the storm. He was resigned to the possibility of losing his home.
``I got a funny feeling, when we get back it will be under water and there won’t be anything left,″ said Miller.
Some evacuees were uncertain where they would end up.
``Destination? I have no idea. But it’s going to be north,″ said Glen Guidry Sr., 31, heading out of Jennings with his wife and five children.
Gail Harrington, a truck driver from Abbeville, was driving a car loaded with eight family members. ``We tanked it up. Wherever that gets us, we’ll go,″ she said.
With a fresh load of shrimp and crabs on ice, shrimp boat worker Russell Vice, 23, of Delcambre, said he was traveling no farther than a Lafayette hotel _ away from the coast but still likely to bear the storm’s high winds and rain. ``We’re going to get drunk and when we wake up it’ll be over,″ he said.
Operations at the historic Tabacso bottling plant southeast of New Iberia stopped. Plant officials expected power outages and heavy damage to surrounding areas.
``We’ll be closed as long as it takes to get our power back and let our people clean out their homes,″ said Tony Simmons, executive vice president of Tabasco maker McIlhenny Co.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sent 210 volunteer doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to Jackson, Miss., and Shreveport, La., to help if needed, said HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.
NASA postponed Wednesday’s shuttle launch because of the storm. The space agency said it did not want to take a chance of launching Atlantis from Cape Canaveral, Fla., only to have the hurricane bear down on Houston, home to Mission Control. NASA said Monday would be the earliest the launch could occur.
Lili was not expected to spread as much rain on south Louisiana as Tropical Storm Isidore, which dumped more than 20 inches in some place. But Lili’s winds and storm surge were expected to be far more ferocious.
Gregory W. Stone, head of the Wave-Current Surge Information System at LSU, said the storm surge is likely to be 10 to 12 feet. ``And stack on top of that waves of 6 to 8 feet,″ he said.
On the Net:
Hurricane Center: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/