- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2002

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Vulnerable coastal towns began emptying yesterday as tropical storm Isidore re-entered the Gulf of Mexico and forecasters issued a hurricane watch for the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts.

The watch, meaning hurricane conditions were possible by tonight, stretched from Cameron in Louisiana's southwestern corner to Pascagoula, Miss. The forecast track put the eye of the storm close to Morgan City in south-central Louisiana by late tonight or early tomorrow.

Emergency preparedness officials along the Louisiana coast planned a conference call with state officials and the National Weather Service for midafternoon. They would determine then whether to recommend evacuations, said Gabe Mathiew, assistant director for the Vermilion Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness.

In Grand Isle, an island resort community 60 miles south of New Orleans, some people were not waiting.

"We're leaving. I'm getting my boat ready now," said Leland McMaster, general manager at Poche's Cabins and Apartments on the island, which has a single two-lane highway as its only evacuation route.

Boaters and campers had already been told to leave the island, said Greg Cromer, manager of Cigar's Marina.

"I imagine later on they'll post a voluntary [evacuation], and then mandatory in the morning, depending on how much the tide comes up," Mr. Cromer said.

For most of Monday, Isidore churned over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, where it tore off roofs, cut communications and left at least two persons dead.

By yesterday morning, it was back over open water in the Gulf of Mexico. Sustained winds, which had fallen to well below hurricane strength of 74 mph as the storm moved over land, rose to 60 mph and were expected to strengthen.

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