- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 1, 2003

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Two crew members from a missing fishing boat were rescued yesterday, and thousands of homes and businesses had no electricity in the wake of Tropical Storm Bill, which blew across the South dropping record rainfall.

Some customers were likely to be without power until today. A quarter of one Louisiana town was flooded after its levee broke for the second time in less than a year.

The weakening remnants of Bill, the second tropical weather system of the year, had been downgraded to a tropical depression yesterday as it followed a diagonal track across the South.

The storm was blamed for one death, a man killed by a falling tree limb in Atlanta.

Bill plowed ashore Monday afternoon in southern Louisiana with sustained winds of about 60 mph, short of the 73 mph minimum for a hurricane. The storm’s remains made their way through Mississippi and Alabama yesterday afternoon, with the heavy rainfall stretching as far as northern Georgia.

At least 54,000 homes and businesses had no power yesterday in southeastern Louisiana. That was down from a peak of about 224,000 early in the day.

High water during the storm flooded the only road to the coastal sport-fishing and beach town of Grand Isle, stranding residents and vacationers, including Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat. State police reopened the road after the water receded.

Both crew members from a missing fishing boat were rescued yesterday — one from an unmanned oil rig, the other from an island. On Monday, the Coast Guard rescued four members from another fishing boat that sank.

The storm’s biggest threat was heavy rain in a region where the ground is already saturated by a series of storms. More flooding was possible as rivers topped their banks, and some were still rising yesterday.

Rainfall included a record 5.72 inches by late Monday in Mobile, Ala., about four times the previous record for the date. New Orleans got 4 to 6 inches, with up to 10 inches in isolated spots east of the city, the weather service said.

Yesterday, northwest Georgia got more than 4 inches of rain, and up to 5 inches more was possible. A flash-flood watch was posted for the entire Atlanta area.

Pascagoula, Miss., got 8 inches of rain by noon Monday, and radar indicated 12.8 inches in the Van Cleave area, said Robert Ricks, a weather service meteorologist in Slidell. However, flooding in Mississippi was limited, officials said.

A levee protecting the southern Louisiana town of Montegut broke Monday night, flooding about a quarter of the streets and some homes, fire chief Spencer Rhodes said. The levee also failed last fall during Hurricane Lili, and Mr. Rhodes said repair work had begun only weeks ago because of bureaucratic holdups.

Angry residents immediately circulated a petition calling for a class-action lawsuit against the levee board, he said.

Several secondary roads in Alabama’s Mobile County were washed away, and the Causeway, a major east-west route across Mobile Bay, remained closed yesterday, state police said.

One person was seriously hurt when a tornado tore up a mobile home in Reserve, 38 miles from New Orleans, said Van Gilmore, assistant director of civil defense in St. John the Baptist Parish.

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