Tropical Storm Bill hammers Gulf Coast
Tropical Storm Bill pounded the Gulf Coast, spinning off a tornado that injured four people, forcing evacuations and leaving at least 11,000 homes and businesses without power. The storm swamped the streets of New Orleans' French Quarter on Monday and prompted crews to slam shut the floodgates protecting the low-lying city.
Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster declared a statewide emergency, and Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove declared an emergency in three southern counties.
One person was seriously hurt and three suffered minor injuries when the tornado tore up a trailer home in Reserve, about 60 kilometers (38 miles) from New Orleans.
Three fishing vessels in Cat Island Pass, about 95 kilometers (60 miles) south of New Orleans, called for help and three Coast Guard helicopters flew out to find them, Petty Officer Jonathan McCool said.
About 11,000 households were without power late Monday afternoon, Entergy spokesman Chanel Lagarde said.
Bill - the second tropical storm of the year - had sustained wind of about 96 kph (60 mph), well short of the 119 kph (74 mph) hurricane threshold. It spread rain across southeastern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.
Up to 30 centimetres (one foot) of rain was forecast in areas already saturated from previous storms.
National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Ricks said the French Quarter, New Orleans' West Bank and lower St. Bernard Parish got some of Louisiana's heaviest rain, - about 12 to 15 centimetres (five to six inches) over 24 hours. More rain was in the forecast. Water rose above the curbs in the French Quarter, and streets, bars and restaurants were empty. Most of the city is below sea level; municipal crews were sent out to slide floodgates into place in levees along the lakefront and in the French Quarter. City offices and universities closed early.