Monday, September 01, 2008

Gustav's outer bands hammer Gulf Coast; thousands lose power

....Police drive on U.S. Highway 90 in Gulfport, Mississippi, as a storm surge moves toward the roadway Monday....

PORT FOURCHON, Louisiana (CNN) -- Hurricane-force winds slammed into oil terminals around Port Fourchon, southwest of New Orleans, as the eye of Category 2 Gustav was churning just off the Gulf shore Monday morning, according to radar.

The eye of Hurricane Gustav made landfall near Cocodrie, Louisiana, about 10:30 a.m. ET, the National Hurricane Center said.

According to forecasts, Gustav -- which was downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane when its winds weakened to 110 mph (177 kph) Monday morning -- is expected to skim New Orleans, which is still recovering from 2005's Hurricane Katrina.

Port Fourchon is packed with oil terminals and distribution facilities. It is the terminal for tankers bringing oil to the United States from overseas. The U.S. Department of Energy says 56 percent of the imported and Gulf of Mexico oil entering the United States passes this point.

The National Weather Service issued tornado warnings for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama, and a tornado was spotted near the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Mississippi, near the Louisiana border.

Though there were no immediate reports of homes being inundated with water, Hancock County Emergency Management Director Brian Adam said several low-lying roads in southern Mississippi were seeing "quite a bit of flooding."

Hancock County is where Katrina made its final landfall three years ago.
From just outside New Orleans, in Harahan, Louisiana, Megan Arseneaux, 19, said in an e-mail that phone service was spotty at her East Bank home, two blocks from the Mississippi River.

"My backyard is full of leaves and debris. The wind was very intense when I woke up around 6 a.m.," she said. "As I type this, the wind has actually picked up. The rain is very harsh too." Watch the latest forecast of Gustav's path »

Arseneaux said she and her mother stayed in Jefferson Parish because they could not decide whether to flee Gustav, given that the highways were clogged with evacuees this weekend. They decided to stay at their home, which has boards on the front windows and sandbags along the front door, she said.

There are concerns that if Gustav moves up the Mississippi River's estuaries, some levees may not hold, resulting in severe flooding. Although many levees have been repaired and heightened since Katrina struck in 2005, all of the work won't be completed until 2011, officials said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said Gustav has already caused an almost 9-foot storm surge in Pointe a La Hache, Louisiana, about 40 miles southeast of New Orleans. Another 1 to 3 feet of surge could occur, the USGS said.

Forecasters warned that a surge of 10 to 14 feet would cause life-threatening flooding. Pointe a La Hache is a mere 3 feet above sea level.

Entergy power said in a statement on its Web site that more than a quarter-million customers in Louisiana were without power as of 9:30 a.m. ET. Did you stay? Share your story

Around 8 a.m., Children's Hospital lost power and switched to generators. A short while later, East Jefferson General Hospital lost power and was running on generators.

Grand Isle, which is in the middle of Gustav's path, was covered in water, and lights were extinguished in parts of downtown New Orleans, including the French Quarter and Children's Hospital. Only a handful of people remained in Grand Isle, a town of about 1,500.

When high winds first kicked up about 3:15 a.m. (4:15 a.m. ET) Monday, the barrier island's electric power went out. A storm surge of at least 14 feet is expected there, according to forecasters.

"The levee on the beach seems to be holding up," said Grand Isle Fire Captain Deacon Guidry. "The water is just starting to rise from the bay side." Watch residents leaving »

Guidry completed an inspection tour of the island just before dawn. He said he saw sheet metal from roofs on the road and power lines down, even before Gustav's powerful winds had reached the island.

Guidry, who is staying with others from the island in a reinforced house, said the flooding pattern is similar to that of Katrina, with the storm surge washing over from the backside of the island. At 6:30 a.m. ET, floodwaters surrounded the house, cutting off all exits from the island.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed flood gates on the Harvey Canal on the west bank of the Mississippi River on Monday. The step, not unexpected, is the first significant measure to prevent flooding in parts of Jefferson Parish that did not flood during Katrina.

Forecasters said Gustav could drench parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas in 6 to 12 inches of rain, with the possibility of up to 20 inches in isolated areas by Thursday.

Property damage from Gustav could total $8 billion, just 25 percent of Sunday's estimate, according to a federally supported computer projection issued Monday morning. Sunday's estimate of $32.8 billion in property damage was based on winds of 126 mph.

The projection now says about 78,036 buildings will be moderately damaged and 13,286 buildings destroyed. It estimates Gustav will leave behind 13 million tons of debris, less than half of Sunday's projection.

Forecasters warned Monday morning Gustav could stall over Louisiana and northeast Texas for several days, which would "exacerbate the threat of heavy rains and inland flooding."

With hurricane-force winds extending 70 miles from the storm's center, the islands and shoreline were already feeling the reach of Gustav's fury. The storm was moving northwest at 16 mph as of 8 a.m. ET, the National Hurricane Center said.

Nearly all of the roughly 2 million people in coastal Louisiana and the New Orleans area had cleared out ahead of Gustav on Sunday night.

Nagin said New Orleans would impose a "dusk-to-dawn" curfew for anyone left. The city-wide curfew will continue until the threat of the storm passes, Nagin said, warning that looters would be dealt with harshly. Watch Nagin warn would-be looters
Road, rail and air links out of New Orleans began to close as the first storm bands began to strike the city. But fewer than 10,000 people were thought to remain in New Orleans, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said, citing the city's police chief.

Gustav killed at least 51 people in southwestern Haiti and eight in the neighboring Dominican Republic last week before moving to Cuba, which said it evacuated 250,000 people from the storm's path. No storm-related deaths in Cuba were immediately reported; a Cuban official said many people were injured on Cuba's Isle of Youth.

source:CNN News


Decebal said...

When the winds will settle down, we would see that this hurricane was just a ploy pushed by the hysterical, Gore loving meteorologists to distract people attention from the republican convention.
The real hurricane here is the political storm unleashed the Republican convention that would put McCain and Paulin in the White House and will blow away the Democrats majority in the House and Senate.
Don’t believe the lame excuses some networks put forward to ignore this historic event and tune in the fair and balanced news for real updates.