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September 13, 2007

Hurricane Humberto hits Texas


It may be classified as less than a category 1 storm, but Humberto is still a hurricane.  The storm hit Texas on Wednesday morning as it made its way over to Lousiana with 80 mile per hour winds.

"It’s a very compact storm," Sweeney said. The strongest winds are very close to the center of circulation. The hurricane force winds only go about 15 miles."

In addition to the strong winds, residents are experiencing flooding and power outtages.

HOUSTON (AP)- Hurricane Humberto crashed ashore along southeast Texas early Thursday, bringing heavy rains and maximum sustained winds of up to 80 mph as it made its way to Louisiana, the National Weather Service said.

The Category 1 storm made landfall about 5 miles east of High Island, near Sea Rim State Park, meteorologist Jim Sweeney said. The storm was expected to start weakening as it continued inland.

"It’s a very compact storm," Sweeney said. The strongest winds are very close to the center of circulation. The hurricane force winds only go about 15 miles."

Power was knocked out for most of Beaumont as the storm blew through, said Michael White, Jefferson County’s assistant emergency management coordinator.

"We’re seeing winds at about 75 to 80 miles per hour," White said from the Emergency Operations Center in Beaumont, which lost power. Officials were forced to track the storm with laptops.

A hurricane warning was issued from east of High Island to Cameron, La. A tropical storm warning was in effect from east of Cameron to Intracoastal City, La. The storm was initially expected to strike as a tropical storm until it energized into a Category 1 hurricane after midnight.

At 5 a.m. EDT, the center of Humberto was about 60 miles northeast of Galveston and about 25 miles northeast of High Island Texas. It was moving toward the north-northeast near 8 mph.

The storm’s rain bands were spreading over the coast and between 5 and 10 inches of rain were expected, with some spots possibly getting as much as 15 inches. But authorities said evacuations were not necessary.

The area expected to be hit the hardest is in the far southeast corner of Texas from Galveston Island eastward. It includes the Beaumont and Port Arthur areas.

Texas has had one of the wettest summers on record, with Houston soaked under the most rain it’s had in a summer since 1942. With the ground already saturated, flooding was likely.

Gov. Rick Perry activated 50 military vehicles with 200 soldiers, plus a half-dozen helicopters and two swift-water rescue teams. Other crews from the U.S. Coast Guard were on standby.

"Some areas of our state remain saturated by summer floods, and many communities in this storm’s projected path are at high risk of dangerous flash flooding," Perry said.

In Louisiana, Gov. Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency. Calcasieu and Vermilion parishes had shelters on standby. Vermilion also was making sandbags and sand available, said Mark Smith, a spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

The warning area included Louisiana’s Cameron Parish, which was devastated by Hurricane Rita in September 2005. More than 500 federally issued travel trailers and mobile homes remain there.

Last month, at least six deaths were blamed on Tropical Storm Erin, which dropped nearly a foot of rain in parts of San Antonio, Houston and the Texas Hill Country.

In 2001, slow-moving Tropical Storm Allison soaked Houston, dumping about 20 inches of rain in eight hours. About two dozen people died, sections of the city were paralyzed and damage was estimated at roughly $5 billion.

"Parts of East Texas could be hit pretty hard," Houston Mayor Bill White said, noting that the east turn of the storm could reduce possible damage to Houston. "But you can’t tell. Remember Allison. It just sat there instead of moving."

Humberto’s arrival comes just days after Galveston last Saturday marked the 107th anniversary of the great 1900 storm where more than 6,000 people were killed in what remains the nation’s deadliest natural disaster.

Humberto is the eighth named storm this year and formed from a depression that developed Wednesday morning. It became a Category One hurricane when winds reached above 74 mph.

Another tropical depression also formed Wednesday far in the open Atlantic, about 930 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. It had maximum sustained winds near 35 mph and was moving west-northwest at about 16 mph.


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