Hur­ri­cane kills 6, crum­bles houses across South­east

San Francisco Chronicle - - NATION -

AT­LANTA — Mil­lions of peo­ple were with­out power and at least six were dead Thurs­day af­ter Hur­ri­cane Zeta slammed into Louisiana and made a bee­line across the South, leav­ing shat­tered build­ings, thou­sands of downed trees and fresh an­guish over a record­set­ting hur­ri­cane sea­son.

From the bay­ous of the Gulf Coast to At­lanta and be­yond, South­ern­ers used to deal­ing with dan­ger­ous weather were left to pick up the pieces once again just days ahead of an elec­tion in which early vot­ing con­tin­ued de­spite the storm.

In At­lanta and New Or­leans, drivers dodged trees in roads and nav­i­gated in­ter­sec­tions with­out traf­fic sig­nals. In Lakeshore, Miss., Ray Gar­cia re­turned home to find a shrimp boat washed up and rest­ing against its pil­ings.

As many as 2.6 mil­lion homes and busi­nesses lost power across seven states, but the lights were com­ing back on slowly. The sun came out and tem­per­a­tures dropped, but trees were still sway­ing as the storm’s rem­nants blew through.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Ed­wards said the state sus­tained cat­a­strophic dam­age on Grand Isle in Jef­fer­son Parish, where Zeta punched three breaches in the levee. Ed­wards or­dered the Louisiana Na­tional Guard to fly in sol­diers to as­sist with search and res­cue ef­forts and urged con­tin­ued cau­tion.

“Oddly enough, it isn’t the storms that typ­i­cally pro­duce the most in­juries and the fa­tal­i­ties. It’s the cleanup ef­forts. It’s the use of gen­er­a­tors. It’s the car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing. It’s the elec­tro­cu­tion that comes from power lines. So, now is the time to be very, very cau­tious out there,” Ed­wards said.

Lines of cars stretched more than 20 deep at one of the few gas sta­tions open in Mar­rero, La. The owner was us­ing an in­dus­trial gen­er­a­tor to run the pumps and ac­cept­ing cash only.

Zeta weak­ened to a post­trop­i­cal storm by Thurs­day af­ter­noon with max­i­mum sus­tained winds of 50 mph, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter. The fast­mov­ing storm was cen­tered about 25 miles south­west of Cape May, N.J., and fore­cast to head east­north­east over the open At­lantic.

North Carolina and south­east­ern Vir­ginia were still be­ing buf­feted with gusty winds, but Zeta was mov­ing along at 53 mph, mean­ing no sin­gle place was blasted too long.

Still, the lat­est punch from this his­tor­i­cally busy hur­ri­cane sea­son left peo­ple shaken.

Will Arute of New Or­leans said it sounded like a bomb went off when part of a large oak snapped out­side and crashed into his car and a cor­ner of his home.

“I did not an­tic­i­pate this to hap­pen. It was pretty in­tense along the eye­wall when it went through here,” he said.

Bill Feig / Ba­ton Rouge (La.) Ad­vo­cate

Power poles bro­ken by Hur­ri­cane Zeta line a road in Grand Isle, La. Zeta cut power to as many as 2.6 mil­lion homes and busi­nesses be­fore be­ing down­graded to a post­trop­i­cal storm.

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