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Tropical Storm Bill Defies Forecast

July 2, 2003

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Tropical Storm Bill blew right past the National Weather Service’s new five-day forecast, hitting Louisiana less than a day and a half after the first storm advisory was issued.

``We like to get as much notice as possible, but this storm formed fast and moved fast,″ said Jim Ballow, assistant chief of operations for the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness.

The National Weather Service entered the hurricane season announcing it now could provide five days’ warning on storms, rather than the usual three days.

A new weather service computer compiles data more rapidly; forecasters say it gives them confidence to track big storms sooner.

Despite its failure to do so in the case of Bill, NWS spokesman Frank Lepore said the five-day forecast will provide helpful information for most of this year’s storms.

With Bill, the time from formation to landfall was only 30 hours.

``The five-day forecast had nothing to do with Bill,″ said James Bernauer, director of emergency preparedness for St. Mary Parish. ``There wasn’t any five days.″

Bill developed from a weather system centered around Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula before the weekend, but did not take shape until Sunday morning, when the first advisory was issued.

At that time the storm was about 460 miles southeast of Port Arthur, Texas. By 4 p.m. Monday, Bill was washing ashore about 30 miles east of Morgan City, La.

The storm angled northeast, sweeping across New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain and moving on inland across Mississippi and Alabama, leaving tens of thousands in Louisiana and Alabama without electricity Tuesday night. Some customers were likely to be without power until Wednesday, utilities said.

The storm was blamed for one death, a man killed by a falling tree limb in Atlanta.

A levee protecting the southern Louisiana town of Montegut broke Monday night, flooding about a quarter of the streets and some homes, fire chief Spencer Rhodes said.

Mayor Eddie Price of Mandeville, La., said the damage likely would cost his town as much as the damage from hurricanes Lili and Isidore combined.

``Because the reports we were getting from the NWS turned out to be, quite frankly, incorrect, the people were left without a defense,″ Price said.

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