Storm expected to be another blow to Gulf Coast businesses
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A weekend that was to be filled with June 15 and Father’s Day celebrations turned gloomy on the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi, where an unpredictable tropical weather system brought wind, heavy rains and fears
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A weekend that was to be filled with June 10 and Father’s Day celebrations turned gloomy on the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi, where an unpredictable tropical weather system brought wind, heavy rains and fears of flooding in an area where some still have sandbags left over from last year’s record hurricane season.
With virus restrictions eased and summer approaching, Gulf Coast business owners – everything from restaurateurs to boat operators in the swamps – had expected an influx of tourist money after a year. lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic and relentless storms. But those hopes have been tarnished by the storm.
“My biggest concern is that it takes away a busy weekend and that it could end up being a lot of rain,” said Austin Sumrall, owner and chef of White Pillars Restaurant and Lounge in Biloxi, Mississippi. He had 170 reservations on his books for Sunday, but was worried some customers would cancel. “We have seen, especially last year, that the carpet can be ripped out quite quickly from under you,” he said.
The storm that was heading north over the Gulf of Mexico was expected to move inland early on Saturday. It is likely to dump 5 inches (13 centimeters) to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain along parts of the Gulf Coast – even 15 inches (38 centimeters) in isolated areas, National Hurricane forecasters say. Center.
A tropical storm warning has spread from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Okaloosa County / Walton County border in the Florida panhandle. Coastal flooding was possible and flash flood watches extended along the coast of southeastern Louisiana to the Florida panhandle and well inland to Mississippi, Alabama and in parts of central and northern Georgia.
Louisiana swamp tour boat captain Darrin Coulon spent Friday securing boats at the docks, having already canceled popular weekend excursions.
“I’m sure the region is going to have flooding,” Coulon lamented.
Dealing with tropical storms is nothing new for Coulon, who jokingly said he came from the “cone of uncertainty,” in reference to a term used by forecasters.
In Louisiana, the threat came a month after spring storms and flooding that were responsible for five deaths, and as parts of the state continued to slowly recover from a brutal 2020 hurricane season. Tropical Storm Cristobal which opened the season last June, Hurricanes Laura and Delta which devastated southwest Louisiana and Hurricane Zeta which cut down trees and cut electricity for days in New Brunswick. Orleans in October.
The latest storm, moving north toward Louisiana, carried sustained tropical storm force winds of 72 km / h, but forecasters said it could not be classified as a tropical storm because it he lacked a single well-defined center.
“I hope he comes in and out,” said Greg Paddie, manager of Tacky Jack’s, a restaurant in Orange Beach, Alabama.
Paddie said the restaurant still had sandbags left over from preparations for Hurricane Sally last year. This September storm, blamed for two deaths, threw ships on land and cut power to hundreds of thousands of people in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.
The disappointment was evident in the voice of Seneca Hampton, organizer of the Juneteenth Freedom Festival in Gautier, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He spent weeks organizing free food trucks, vendors, a bounce house, makeup, burgers, and free hot dogs for the event. This was eagerly awaited as last year was canceled due to the pandemic and due to the re-designation of Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
“It’s something that means a lot to people, and there were some people who were disappointed, like ‘I already had in mind that I was coming over there to celebrate,'” said Hampton.
The Gautier event has been postponed until next month. A June 10 event in Selma, Alabama was postponed to August.
Clusters of storms were dumping up to 10 centimeters of rain per hour on Friday night along parts of the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, said Benjamin Schott, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service’s office in Slidell, Louisiana. . Radar showed more heavy rain moving ashore over the Alabama and Florida Panhandle. The National Hurricane Center said the system was about 60 miles (95 kilometers) south of Morgan City, Louisiana on Friday night, moving north at 13 mph (20 km / h).
Mexico, while receiving rain from the storm in the Gulf, was also threatened by a storm in the Pacific. Tropical Storm Dolores formed on Friday and is expected to hit its west-central coast on Saturday evening, possibly near hurricane force, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Martin reported from Marietta, Georgia. Associated Press writers Leah Willingham in Jackson, Mississippi; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; Chevel Johnson in New Orleans and Stacey Plaisance in Crown Point, Louisiana, contributed to this report.
Kevin Mcgill and Jeff Martin, The Associated Press