Sun, Aug 19, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Texans battle one storm's flooding, brace for another

AP , SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS

Texans battled rain and flooding from the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin as Gulf Coast residents cast a wary eye toward powerful Hurricane Dean, which strengthened as it made its way through the Caribbean.

At least six people died this week because of Erin's thunderstorms. One person remained missing.

Dean, which forecasters said could threaten parts of the US by Wednesday, blew through the Caribbean on Friday with 160kph winds, tearing away roofs and flooding streets as it became a powerful Category 4 storm.

Dean's winds strengthened to 241kph early yesterday and it was expected to steer next week into the Gulf of Mexico, with its 4,000 oil and gas platforms.

Dean was centered about 1,060km southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, and about 390km south of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

It was moving west at 27kph.

Although forecasters said it was too early to tell whether the storm would eventually strike the US coast somewhere, state officials were preparing for the worst.

Texas Governor Rick Perry declared the storm an "imminent threat" and initiated full-scale preparations.

Fuel trucks were dispatched to coastal communities, storm-response task forces were put on alert and supply trucks and other resources were pre-positioned along evacuation routes.

"It's so far out, but it's not too early to start preparing," Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said.

"We have more notice than with Erin. We're glad for that especially since [Dean] is projected to bring some strength," she said.

Harris County, Texas, Judge Ed Emmett, the executive of the county that includes Houston, called Erin's rain and flooding "a wet run" for the impending Dean.

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency on Friday and requested a federal declaration that would allow federal resources to flow to the state should Dean strike any part of the Louisiana coast.

Forecast projections showed a slim chance of the storm jumping northward toward Louisiana, but it was enough to put Louisiana emergency preparedness officials on high alert, given the weakened condition of the state's coastline since it was pummeled by hurricanes Katrina and Rita a little less than two years ago.

Summer storms have poured record rainfall across Texas and parts of Oklahoma and Kansas, with floods killing 22 people since the middle of June.

Hurricane specialists expect this year's Atlantic hurricane season -- June 1 to Nov. 30 -- to be busier than average, with as many as 16 tropical storms, nine of them strengthening into hurricanes.

Ten tropical storms developed in the Atlantic last year, but only two made landfall in the US.

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