- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 26, 2002

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. (AP) Heavy rain deluged the Gulf Coast, flooding streets and forcing evacuations, as Tropical Storm Isidore moved closer to landfall yesterday.
As much as 6 inches of rain had fallen in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida by noon yesterday, and some coastal areas were already reporting wind gusts of around 30 mph.
A hurricane watch stretched about 300 miles from Cameron, in southwestern Louisiana, to Pascagoula, Miss., and a tropical storm warning encompassed a wider area from High Island, Texas, to Destin, Fla.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said the city expected 10 to 15 inches of rain and winds of at least 40 mph last night and today. The eye of the storm was expected to hit land by this morning along the Louisiana coast.
Already, scattered power outages caused by downed trees and limbs had affected more than 1,000 people in Louisiana overnight.
Amid the wind and rain, Robert Gill attached big sheets of plywood to the glass front of a convenience store on Dauphin Island, a narrow coastal barrier south of Mobile.
"It's easier to board up now than when the water comes up," he said.
The nearby beach was deserted except for a couple of daredevil surfers and a few people in a beach pavilion watching the lines of rain sweeping in from the Gulf and flooding Dauphin Island's streets.
At 11 a.m. EDT, Isidore was about 270 miles south of New Orleans and heading north at about 13 mph. Its sustained winds rose to 60 mph, with a slow strengthening expected over the next day.
The storm swept over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on Monday, tearing off roofs, cutting communications and leaving at least two persons dead. By Tuesday morning, it was back over open water in the Gulf of Mexico. Its sustained winds fell well below hurricane strength of 74 mph as the storm moved over land but then rose again to 60 mph in the Gulf.
Grand Isle, an island resort community south of New Orleans, ordered a mandatory evacuation Tuesday. Other coastal communities followed with either mandatory or voluntary evacuations, depending on their proximity to the storm's projected track.
"We've already been experiencing some severe thunderstorms," Grand Isle Councilman Ray Santiny said. "We've had almost gale-force winds, 40 to 50 miles an hour, in some of those thunderstorms."
The Louisiana Superdome was opened early yesterday for handicapped residents with mobility problems and other special needs. Most schools closed across the region.
Civil defense agencies in the Mississippi counties of Hancock and Jackson issued mandatory evacuation orders for low-lying areas. The Mississippi coast's usually busy gambling industry was also told to close temporarily, and Northrup Grumman's shipyard facilities in Pascagoula and Gulfport were shutting down.


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