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Half a million flee Lili


"It's hard to recover when you don't know whether you'll just be having to redo your work."

—Lesli Remaly

Hurricane Lili churned toward Louisiana with 100-mph winds Thursday, forcing more than a half million people to flee the biggest storm to threaten the area in years.

Lili weakened to a category one hurricane early Thursday morning. "But it's still a major storm and there will be damage," said National Hurricane Center forecaster Robbie Berg.

Landfall was likely to be in Louisiana between New Iberia and Morgan City by mid-morning Thursday, forecasters predicted.

While the major threat from last week's Tropical Storm Isidore was rain, Lili's dangers are high winds and a life-threatening storm surge of 25 feet in coastal areas. Isolated tornadoes will add to the danger.

Some 800 members of the National Guard were deployed in Louisiana to assist with evacuations.

"Lili continues on its relentless course," said Tom Hazelwood of the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

Disaster responders were already urging the concerned public to send cash donations -- not material goods -- to response organizations if they would like to help.

Disaster Child Care (DCC) teams -- administered by the Church of the Brethren under an agreement with the American Red Cross -- deployed trained volunteers to the Gulf Coast area to care for children whose families were affected by Tropical Storm Isidore.

Now in the face of Hurricane Lili, they will stay for two weeks before they're potentially replaced by additional teams. "It's uncertain whether we'll send more teams into Louisiana but that seems likely," said Roy Winter, DCC director.

At NASA's Mission Control in Cape Canaveral, Fla., the space administration shut down its computer network and evacuated control rooms Tuesday. The hurricane has put the flight of shuttle Atlantis on hold.

Earlier this week, Lili killed seven people in Jamaica and forced tens of thousands to evacuate Cuba.

Last week, Tropical Storm Isidore flooded hundreds of homes on the Gulf Coast and caused an estimated $100 million in damage.

Compared to Isidore, "Lili will have greater impact, but in a smaller area," said Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center.

Lili packed 110-mph winds Wednesday, and the Gulf Coast braced for its second storm in a week.

The new storm is hitting as recovery from Tropical Storm Isidore has barely begun.

"It's hard to recover when you don't know whether you'll just be having to redo your work," said Lesli Remaly, a Church World Service disaster response and recovery liaison. "But there are feeding units out feeding, and individuals are still cleaning and mucking out from the damage."

Lili's path put a crimp on recovery efforts in areas hit hard by Isidore.

"Everything's kind of on hold now because they're watching to see what's going to happen with Lili," Remaly said.

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