- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2002

NEW IBERIA, La. (AP) Nearly a half-million residents of Louisiana and Texas were urged to clear out yesterday some of them for the second time in a week as a fearsome killer hurricane barreled toward the Gulf Coast with 140 mph winds.
"We have a real disaster in the making," said Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. "This is going to be the worst hurricane to hit the Louisiana coast since reconnaissance data has been available."
Resort towns boarded up, along with NASA's Mission Control in Houston, and the nation's biggest oil import terminal. Even Tabasco sauce won't challenge the storm. The bottling plant for the hot sauce, on Avery Island off the Louisiana coast, is shutting down.
"I got a funny feeling," ranch hand Wilson Miller said as he stocked up on cigarettes and sandwiches at a gasoline station near Lafayette. "When we get back, it will be under water and there won't be anything left."
Hurricane Lili was expected to come ashore in Louisiana this afternoon as a major, destructive hurricane, Category 4 on the five-point scale. Forecasters warned that some areas could be inundated with 6 to 10 inches of rain and a life-threatening storm surge of up to 20 feet.
About 143,000 people were urged to leave the Louisiana coast, while in Texas, officials advised the 330,000 residents in two counties surrounding Beaumont and Port Arthur to head inland because of the threat of a 9-foot storm surge.
Winds of up to 135 mph extended outward 45 miles from the center of Lili, and hurricane-force winds were expected to reach up to 150 miles inland. At 5 p.m., Lili was 285 miles south of North Orleans.
In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry signed a disaster declaration and corrections officials moved more than 3,000 inmates to inland lockups.
The storm forced the shutdown of Mission Control in Houston, delaying for nearly a week yesterday's shuttle launch 900 miles away at Cape Canaveral, Fla. It marked the first time in 41 years of manned spaceflight that bad weather in Houston delayed a Florida launch.
Grand Isle, the storm-vulnerable island south of New Orleans, ordered its 1,500 residents to get out even as workers completed repairs on a 2,500-foot section of levee washed out last week by Tropical Storm Isidore.
Nearby, Port Fourchon was shutting down and evacuating. An estimated 16 percent of the nation's crude oil and 17 percent of its natural gas come from rigs and platforms that require access to the port.
LOOP, the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port about 20 miles off the coast, also closed. It is the biggest U.S. crude oil import terminal, handling about 1 million barrels of crude a day, or 11 percent of U.S. imports.
A hurricane warning stretched from just east of High Island, Texas, to the mouth of the Mississippi River in Louisiana.
Earlier, Lili barreled through the Caribbean, killing seven persons and driving tens of thousands of Cubans from their homes. Isidore then swamped Louisiana, dumping more than 20 inches of rain in places and causing $100 million in flood damage.

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