A slow mover of a hur­ri­cane

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Gulf Coast res­i­dents brace for Sally, which is ex­pected to bring up to 24 inches of rain by mid­week.

NEW OR­LEANS — Storm-weary Gulf Coast res­i­dents rushed to fin­ish last-minute prepa­ra­tions Mon­day as Hur­ri­cane Sally chugged slowly through warm gulf waters. Fore­cast­ers said the big­gest threat is flood­ing, with as much as 2 feet of rain fall­ing in some ar­eas.

“The bot­tom line con­tin­ues to be that Sally is ex­pected to be a dan­ger­ous slow-mov­ing hur­ri­cane near the coast of south­east­ern Louisiana, Mississipp­i and Alabama dur­ing the next” two to three days, the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter said Mon­day.

Sally is per­haps the least wel­come guest among lots of com­pany: For only the sec­ond time in recorded his­tory, me­te­o­rol­o­gist Philip Klotzbach said, there are five trop­i­cal cy­clones churn­ing in the At­lantic basin: Paulette, Rene, Teddy and now Vicky also are spin­ning over ocean waters.

Jeremy Burke was lift­ing things off the floor in case of flood­ing in his Bay Books bookstore in the Old Town neigh­bor­hood of Bay St. Louis, Miss., a pop­u­lar week­end get­away from New Or­leans, about 50 miles to the west. The streets out­side were emp­ty­ing fast.

“It’s turn­ing into a ghost town,” he said. “Ev­ery­body’s big­gest fear is the storm surge, and the worst pos­si­ble sce­nario be­ing that it just stalls out. That would be a dicey sit­u­a­tion for ev­ery­body.”

The Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter said it was too early to tell ex­actly where Sally would come ashore, be­cause it’s still not known when it would make a turn to the north.

At 10 a.m., it was about 135 miles east-south­east of the mouth of the Mississipp­i River. A hur­ri­cane-hunter air­craft crew said it was strength­en­ing rapidly, to top winds of 85 mph. It was mov­ing slowly, at just 6 mph. Sally is ex­pected to reach shore by early Tues­day, bring­ing dan­ger­ous weather con­di­tions, in­clud­ing risk of flood­ing, to a re­gion stretch­ing from the western Florida Pan­han­dle to south­east­ern Louisiana.

“That sys­tem is fore­cast to bring not only dam­ag­ing winds but a dan­ger­ous storm surge,” said Daniel Brown of the hur­ri­cane cen­ter. “Be­cause it’s slow­ing down, it could pro­duce a tremen­dous amount of rain­fall over the com­ing days.”

Sally could pro­duce rain to­tals up to 24 inches by mid­week, fore­cast­ers said.

Peo­ple in New Or­leans were watch­ing the storm’s track in­tently. A more east­erly land­fall would prob­a­bly bring the heav­ier rains and dam­ag­ing winds onto the Mississipp­i coast, or east of that. Al­ready outer bands from the storm were hit­ting the Florida Pan­han­dle.

A more west­erly track would pose an­other test for the low-ly­ing city, where heavy rains have to be pumped out through a cen­tury-old drainage sys­tem.

Of­fi­cials with the Sew­er­age and Wa­ter Board said Sun­day that all of the pumps were in op­er­a­tion ahead of the storm, but the ag­ing sys­tem is sus­cep­ti­ble to break­downs.

The hur­ri­cane cen­ter warned of an “ex­tremely dan­ger­ous and life-threat­en­ing storm surge” for ar­eas out­side the levee pro­tec­tion sys­tem that cov­ers the greater New Or­leans area stretch­ing from Port Four­chon, La., to the Alaba­maFlorida bor­der.

“I know for a lot of peo­ple this storm seemed to come out of nowhere,” said Louisiana Gov. John Bel Ed­wards on Sun­day. “We need ev­ery­body to pay at­ten­tion to this storm. Let’s take this one se­ri­ously.”

It was just a lit­tle over two weeks ago when the op­po­site end of the state was brac­ing for Hur­ri­cane Laura, which blew ashore on Aug. 27 as a Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane in Cameron Parish, which bor­ders Texas. That storm scoured the south­west­ern Louisiana coast, rip­ping off rooftops and leav­ing large parts of the city of Lake Charles un­in­hab­it­able. So far 32 peo­ple have died in Texas and Louisiana, the vast ma­jor­ity of them in Louisiana.

Of­fi­cials in Mississipp­i warned Hur­ri­cane Sally was ex­pected to co­in­cide with high tide, lead­ing to sig­nif­i­cant storm surge.

Pen­sacola, on Florida’s Pan­han­dle, was brac­ing for 10 to 15 inches of rain.

All north­ern Gulf Coast states are urg­ing res­i­dents to pre­pare. A manda­tory evac­u­a­tion has al­ready been is­sued in Grand Isle, La., ahead of Sally. On Satur­day, New Or­leans Mayor LaToya Cantrell is­sued a manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­der for Or­leans Parish res­i­dents liv­ing out­side the parish’s levee pro­tec­tion sys­tem.

Hur­ri­cane Paulette, mean­while, was mov­ing away from Ber­muda. The en­tire is­land was in­side its eye on Mon­day and many cus­tomers lost power, but Ber­muda’s build­ings are built to with­stand big­ger hur­ri­canes.

Once a trop­i­cal storm, Rene was fore­cast to be­come a rem­nant on Mon­day. Teddy be­came a trop­i­cal storm Mon­day morn­ing and was ex­pected to be­come a hur­ri­cane later in the week, fore­cast­ers said.

And Trop­i­cal Storm Vicky formed east of the Cape Verde is­lands.

Karen War­ren Hous­ton Chron­i­cle

PI­LOT Derek Har­baugh helps un­load cats and dogs from a plane in Hous­ton. The an­i­mals were evac­u­ated from Ham­mond, La., ahead of Hur­ri­cane Sally.

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