Saturday, August 18, 2007

Gulf states mop up after Erin, ramp up for hurricane Dean

Environment News Service: Packing torrential rains and strong winds, Erin claimed seven lives as it swept across southern Texas Thursday. Downgraded to a tropical depression as it made landfall, the storm still gave rain-weary Texas a beating, drenching Houston and leaving thousands stranded on flooded freeways and side streets.

…While Erin drifted west into New Mexico, all eyes in Texas turned to Hurricane Dean now blowing westward across the Caribbean. The dangerous Category 4 hurricane is expected to enter the Gulf of Mexico Monday night.

The government of the Dominican Republic has issued a hurricane warning for portions of the island's southern coast. The government of Haiti, which shares the same island, issued a hurricane watch, as did the government of Jamaica.

Texas Governor Rick Perry Friday declared Hurricane Dean an imminent threat to Texas, initiating full-scale state hurricane preparedness efforts. Perry activated state resources, including search and rescue teams, as National Weather Service projections show Hurricane Dean could impact the Texas coast by the middle of next week.

…In Baton Rouge, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency so that the state is prepared for Hurricane Dean. She has also requested a presidential emergency declaration to ensure federal assets are available to Louisiana prior to the potential landfall of Dean.

"These declarations are a necessary step that allows the state to move quickly if need be," Governor Blanco said. "I urge all citizens to be personally prepared, listen to your local officials and monitor your local media as this storm progresses. Please make sure your plans to get to safety should evacuation be in order. Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best."

…Criticized for its inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, has already sent a five-member Federal Incident Response Support Team to Puerto Rico to meet Hurricane Dean. FEMA officials call the move an example of "the new FEMA leaning forward."

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