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Tuesday
Sep062011

Remnants of Lee Head North; Hurricane Katia Picks Up Strength

Cheryl Gerber/Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS) -- With Hurricane Katia picking up steam as it moves across the Atlantic Ocean, Tropical Depression Lee is moving up the East Coast after drenching parts of the deep South and leaving thousands without power.

On Monday, the skies over Louisiana were clearing after Lee, which made landfall as a tropical storm Sunday, dropped more than 14 inches of rain in some parts -- more than the state normally gets in a month.  Although the storm system was downgraded to a depression overnight, forecasters still warned of heavy rain and flooding.

In Mississippi, nearly 5,000 customers were reportedly without power.

In some parts of Louisiana, small boats were the only way to get around.  Winds knocked down trees and spawned water spouts.

The storm put New Orleans' post-Katrina flood protection to the test.  Some of the city's streets were flooded but the pumping system kept pace.  Evacuations appeared to be in the hundreds, not the thousands.

Before Lee was downgraded, the storm produced almost 20 tornadoes during the weekend in several Gulf Coast states.

Craig Staples told ABC News that it felt like Hurricane Katrina again.

"Not as bad, kind of scary," Staples said.  "It's a shock."

Meanwhile, Katia was downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane on Tuesday after becoming the first Category 4 storm of the 2011 Atlantic season overnight.  The hurricane is about 400 miles away from Bermuda with maximum sustained winds of 125 miles per hour.

According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, Katia is not expected to make landfall on the U.S. but could bring strong rip currents along the country's East Coast and Bermuda come Wednesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep022011

State of Emergency Declared in Louisiana ahead of Storm

File photo. Burton McNeely/Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS) -- With the threat of a tropical storm forming in the Gulf of Mexico that could bring upwards of a foot of rain this Labor Day holiday weekend to Southern U.S. cities like New Orleans, the governor of Louisiana has declared a state of emergency in advance of potential flooding.

The system, known as Tropical Depression 13, is currently south of Louisiana and is expected to move slowly north, making landfall in the state sometime Sunday late afternoon or evening as a tropical storm packing winds up to 60 miles per hour.  Should that happen, it would be named Tropical Storm Lee.

The storm is forecast to bring torrential rainfall to cities like New Orleans, where some areas just south of the city could see up to 20 inches of rain.  The amount of rain will depend on how long the storm sits in the area.

A tropical storm warning has been issued for New Orleans, as well as for other parts of Louisiana, and for parts of Mississippi and Texas.

Meanwhile, Katia remains a tropical storm and is not expected to pick up much strength on Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center. It is not forecast to make landfall near the U.S. this weekend.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep022011

Texas Drought: People and Animals in 100 Degree Heat

Burke/Triolo Productions/Comstock/ Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- Texas state officials are planning how to evacuate several endangered species at risk because of the record drought. The state is home to 86 threatened species.

Parched skies and relentless 100 degree heat are turning this summer into one of the worst in history for parts of Texas. Joggers run in the early morning before the heat intensifies; people working in downtown Houston seek shelter in the city's underground tunnel system rather than venturing out on the scorched city sidewalks. Football players practice in the morning to beat the heat, and children spend recess in air conditioned gyms at school.

The heat has driven wildlife into the open -- one homeowner southwest of Houston, who was wondering what was happening to his disappearing watermelon crop, set up a camera, and snapped a photo of a coyote in his backyard, stealing a watermelon.

Lynn Cuny is the director of the Wildlife Rescue Center in Kendalia, near San Antonio. Her group is running rescue services around the clock -- at last count she had 81 baby deer in her sanctuary. Her advice to homeowners encountering wildlife in their backyards: "Please be patient, these animals are desperate for water and often backyards are the only source."

Deer are roaming in the middle of the day down Texas roads, and calls are coming in to animal control centers about raccoons, feral hogs, and other animals straying into yards in a desperate hunt for water that is not falling from the skies.

Droughts aren't new in Texas -- one in the 1950's set records -- but this one could beat that. Rain was so rare back then that when it finally rained in West Texas on April 25, 1951, the event was noted on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse in San Angelo.

Hopes are pinned on a tropical disturbance out in the Gulf of Mexico, which the National Hurricane Center says will be named Lee.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep012011

Katia Becomes Second Hurricane of 2011 Atlantic Season

NOAA/National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center(MIAMI) -- Katia, which earlier this week was named a tropical storm off the West African coast, has picked up enough strength to become the second hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic season.

The storm developed into a category 1 hurricane Wednesday night with maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour.  It is currently more than 1,000 miles east of the Leeward Islands and is moving west/northwest at 20 miles per hour.

Hurricane Katia is projected to steer clear of the Caribbean Islands and could pick up considerable strength by the week's end.

"We are expecting strengthening over the next couple of days and it could become a major hurricane or category 3 strength by the weekend," says Hurricane Specialist Daniel Brown at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

But, as Brown says, "it's a little too early to know whether or not it could threaten the United States."

Another system, however, could pose a threat to the southeastern region of the country.  The National Hurricane Center says "a large area of cloudiness and thunderstorms over the eastern Gulf of Mexico" could develop into a tropical depression.  The system also has a 60 percent chance of developing into what would be Tropical Storm Lee in the next two days, the hurricane center said on Thursday.

Should this system strengthen, it could bring heavy rain to New Orleans and northern Florida over the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug262011

Hurricane Irene Sends Tens of Thousands Fleeing the Coast

NOAA/National Weather Service/ National Hurricane CenterUPDATE: Hurricane Irene was downgraded early Friday morning to a category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph.

(KITTY HAWK, N.C.) -- The exodus from the North Carolina coast has begun and on Thursday night it was a slow motion, bumper to bumper march inland as tens of thousands heeded warnings to get out of the way of Hurricane Irene.

Gas stations are running out of fuel, ATM's are out of cash and one woman was out of a very special night.

"The TV showed the mandatory evacuation and I burst into tears," said Melissa Cook, who was supposed to get married this weekend.  "Everything I had planned and dreamed about."

Hurricane Irene's wave of disappointment also affected beach goers in South Carolina.  Police closed the beaches to swimming after six swimmers were rescued from rip currents caused by the massive storm.

As Irene -- a category 3 hurricane then with 115 mph winds -- blasted through the Bahamas, the U.S. began bracing for the storm's worst.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, under President Obama's direction, contacted East Coast mayors and governors potentially in Irene's path.  Later, she and FEMA director Craig Fugate held a conference call with state, local, and tribal officials on planning for the storm.

"Given the unpredictability of these storms, we are currently planning for several scenarios, including potential impacts to major metro areas and critical infrastructure," Napolitano said in a Department of Homeland Security news release.

Evacuation orders were issued along the coast of North Carolina Thursday in Dare, Currituck and Cateret counties.  There are 180,000 people just in Dare County, and another 150,000 people were told to get out of Ocean City, Maryland.

A state of emergency was declared in Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg said police are deploying more than 80 boats around the city as well as several helicopters to prepare for emergencies.  City hospitals have tested their emergency generators, and the city's airports are stockpiling diapers, cots, blankets, pillow and bottles of water.

Fearing Irene's wrath, Amtrak announced it is canceling all train service south of Washington D.C. for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Irene is traveling at 12 mph, making it a slow moving storm which will allow it to hover over an area, dump rain and batter it with ferocious winds for an expended period.  It is expected to slam into the North Carolina coast Saturday afternoon and then churn north along the coast as far as Boston.  She is expected to arrive in New York Sunday afternoon.

As the storm clears the Bahamas and continues over the warm water of the Atlantic, its wind speed is expected to strengthen and the size of the storm could increase to a category 4 with wind speeds of at least 131 mph.

Irene is expected to weaken somewhat as it claws its way up the coast, but will likely still be packing winds of 50 to 70 mph when it reaches New York City and Boston.  It is expected to dump six to 12 inches of rain on the Jersey shore, Long Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug252011

Hurricane Watch Issued for North Carolina as Irene Inches Closer

NOAA/National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center(MIAMI) -- As Hurricane Irene continues to pound the Bahamas Thursday, moving across the northwestern part of the islands as it inches closer to the U.S., a hurricane watch has been issued for the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

"That means tropical storm and hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours," explains Dennis Feltgen, a spokesperson for the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami.  "The storm track right now would take it near or very, or along the portions of the East Coast during the later part of the weekend."

Projections show the category 3 hurricane could hit North Carolina by Saturday afternoon.  The NHC also says Irene could strengthen to a category 4 storm ahead of its expected U.S. landfall.

Adding to Irene's threat is its speed.

“Very important, this one on our forecast is moving slower by quite a bit than the average,” says NHC Director Bill Read.  “Storms usually move at 25-30 miles an hour by the time they get to the northeast.  We are only forecasting 15-20 miles per hour as it crosses the northeast.”

That means Irene could last longer, packing more rain and winds.

Evacuations are already underway in North Carolina and preparations are being made further up north.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the Office of Emergency Management to kick off operations in anticipation of Irene, which could arrive there on Sunday.  There has also been talk of evacuating some of the low-lying areas of New York City, mainly Brooklyn.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug242011

Hurricane Irene Pounds Bahamas, Continues to Strengthen

NOAA/National Weather Service/National Hurricane CenterUPDATE: Hurricane Irene has been upgraded to a category 3 hurricane.

(MIAMI) -- Hurricane Irene is pounding the Southeastern Bahamas Wednesday morning and mustering strength as it continues on its projected path towards the Southern East Coast of the United States.

The storm is forecast to hit the Carolinas later this week, and by that time it may be a major hurricane.

Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami, says Irene's "maximum sustained winds are now 110 miles per hour with higher gusts," making the storm a "strong category 2 hurricane."  But that is expected to change.

"We do expect it to strengthen into a category 3 sometime today [Wednesday]," he says.

Feltgen advises residents along the Eastern coastline, "from South Carolina all the way up to Maine," to pay close attention to Irene.

He warns, "This is a large storm so even if the storm remained well off-shore we could possibly see some heavy rain and strong rains along the coastal sections of the mid-Atlantic states all the way up into New England."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug232011

Hurricane Irene Projected to Strengthen, Head Towards the Carolinas

Ron Garan/NASA(MIAMI) -- It has been three years since an Atlantic hurricane has hit the United States, but that is all about to change as Hurricane Irene continues to gather strength and makes it way towards the nation's southern East Coast.

Now a category 2 hurricane, Irene is lashing the northern coast of the Dominican Republic Tuesday morning with maximum sustained winds of 100 miles per hour.

Later Tuesday, "it's expected to move over the Turks and Caicos Islands near the southeast Bahamas," said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

But the biggest threat from Irene may come later in the week when the storm is projected to hit North and South Carolina, possibly as a category 3 or 4 hurricane.

"We are urging residents all along the extreme southeastern coast of the United States to be very -- to be paying very close attention to this storm.  Folks in the Carolinas right now have the threat of a landfalling major hurricane here as we get into the weekend," Feltgen said.

He said that, according to models, Irene will "be curving more to the northwest than the north," and "it's impact on Florida will be to parallel the coast."

Feltgen advises those in the Carolinas to make sure they have all of their hurricane plans and supplies in place.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug222011

Irene Strengthens, Becomes First Hurricane of 2011 Atlantic Season

National Hurricane Center/NOAA/ National Weather Service(MIAMI) -- Irene officially became the first hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic season after it picked up strength over Puerto Rico early Monday morning.

Hurricane Irene is now packing top winds of 75 miles an hour and is centered about 25 miles west of San Juan, Puerto Rico.  It is moving north/northwest and is expected to approach the Dominican Republic later Monday.

"On this forecast track, the center of Irene will be moving off the coast of Puerto Rico this morning and move near or over the northern coast of the Dominican Republic this afternoon and tonight," said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

It is not yet known exactly how Irene will affect the U.S., but Feltgen says people should keep their eyes open.

"As far as its direct impacts on the United States are concerned it's still a little unclear," he said.  "But we are urging residents along the southeast coast in general and Florida in particular to pay close attention to this storm."

For now, the National Weather Service has issued a hurricane warning for parts of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.  A hurricane watch has also been issued for central Bahamas.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Aug212011

Hurricane Warnings Issued for Tropical Storm Irene

Hemera Technologies/Ablestock.com(MIAMI) -- Hurricane warnings have been issued for Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic as tropical storm Irene spirals closer Sunday.

Irene has already battered the Leeward Islands. National Hurricane Center forecaster Todd Kimberlain says the storm is expected to turn around in a few days and move towards Florida.

"It could lie anywhere west of Florida to all the way east of Florida, so at this point in time what we are telling residents of Florida to definitely be paying attention," Kimberlain says.

The storm is expected to pass close to Puerto Rico Sunday night or early Monday, and then move on to the Dominican Republic. Forecasters believe it will gain strength over the next day and reach hurricane status.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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