Tropical stormmakes landfall

Tropical Storm Bill touched down in south-central Louisiana Monday afternoon.


"On a scale of one to ten, this is about a two."

—Sid Hebert

Tropical Storm Bill touched down in south-central Louisiana Monday afternoon, making landfall in southwestern Terrebonne Parish at about 2:30 p.m., said meteorologist Jim Sweeney at the National Weather Service office in Lake Charles, La. Emergency officials prepared for the worst including what may amount to as much as eight inches of rain in some areas.

A spokesman for the NWS in Slidell, La., said most of Bill's rain will be dumped to the north and east of Houma, and New Orleans is likely to get plenty of rain.

Some Gulf Coast communities were already feeling the effects. Street flooding was reported in most of the southern and southeastern counties of Louisiana by Monday afternoon, he said. Jackson County, Miss., which has already received more than 18 inches of rain in a six-hour period, is likely to get even more rain.

"That's enough to wet your socks," he said.

Moreover, a handful of tornadoes causing minor damage were reported in southern Louisiana, including one in the town of Reserve that injured four people.

Church World Service and other faith-based groups reported they were monitoring the situation.

While the National Weather Service has issued a hurricane watch for south-central Louisiana, Bill is not likely to become a hurricane, said Frank Lepore, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla.

"They're going to start picking up rain there certainly within the next few hours," Lepore said Monday morning. "I don't think (Bill) is going to re-intensify, but it's not out of the realm of possibility."

Heavy rain and consequent flooding, however, are likely to cause problems for the area, particularly in Iberia Parish, where the ground is already saturated with rainfall, said Iberia Parish Sheriff Sid Hebert.

"We're in a little more precarious position than other parishes," Hebert said, noting that his parish has received nearly continuous rain for the last two weeks.

"On a scale of one to ten, this is about a two," he said. "We're used to dealing with storms that pack a much bigger punch, but I'm not real thrilled with the idea of dealing with a whole lot of water."

Hebert said his parish has stocked supplies of sandbags at local fire stations, and pre-positioned boats around the parish to help with possible evacuations or transportation of relief supplies.

"This has been twice as wet a June as usual," said Jim Ballow, assistant division chief for the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness. "The wind is not necessarily a problem as much as the rain. Obviously (Bill) is not as dangerous as (Tropical Storms) Lili and Isidore, but we take all these storms seriously."

Ballow said his office was ready for the possible evacuation of low-lying coastal areas, should local parish officials become overwhelmed by the storm.

In New Orleans, which is not expected to take a direct hit, emergency officials are nonetheless preparing for expected street flooding. With five to eight inches of rain forecast for the city, 18 of the city's 22 floodgates have been closed. In addition, Mayor C. Ray Nagin ordered all nonessential city employees to return home at noon, and city-run summer camps were shut down.

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