Boy killed by log in surf as tropical storm churns in Gulf
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A boy on an Alabama beach was struck and killed by a log washed ashore by storm surge from Tropical Storm Cindy, which spun bands of severe weather ashore from the Florida panhandle to east Texas as it churned ever closer to the Gulf coast.
Baldwin County Sheriff's Capt. Stephen Arthur said witnesses reported the 10-year-old boy from Missouri was standing outside a condominium in Fort Morgan when the log, carried in by a large wave, struck him. Arthur said the youth was vacationing with his family from the St. Louis area and that relatives and emergency workers tried to revive him. He wasn't immediately identified.
It was the first known fatality from Cindy. The storm formed Tuesday and was expected to make landfall some time Thursday near the Louisiana-Texas line. The worst weather was on the east side of the storm. It included drenching rains that posed flash flood threats, strong tidal surges, waterspouts and reports of possible tornadoes.
The White House said President Donald Trump was briefed on the storm Wednesday by Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, like his Alabama counterpart a day earlier, declared a state of emergency Wednesday. He was among authorities stressing that the storm's danger wasn't limited to the coast.
In Knoxville, Tennessee, the power-generating Tennessee Valley Authority, said it was drawing down water levels on nine lakes it controls along the Tennessee River and its tributaries in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky, anticipating heavy runoff from Cindy's rains once the storm moves inland. The TVA manages 49 dams to regulate water, provide power and help control downstream flooding.
The storm was centered early Wednesday afternoon about 170 miles (270 kilometers) southwest of Morgan City, Louisiana and had top sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph). A tropical storm warning was in effect along the coast from San Luis Pass, Texas, to the mouth of the Mississippi River.
On the Mississippi coast, a waterspout came ashore in Biloxi even as heavy rains slackened early Wednesday. Harrison County Emergency Management Director Rupert Lacy said there were no injuries but fences, trees and power lines were damaged. In coastal Missisippi, some areas received up to 9 inches (230 millimeters) of rain.
"There's still a long stretch of tropical moisture coming across the Gulf of Mexico," said Alek Krautmann of the National Weather Service in Slidell, Louisiana. "We still think there's a heavy rain potential really through Thursday night and early Friday."
There were widespread reports of street and road flooding along the Gulf Coast as far east as Florida, where the National Park Service reported the bridge between Navarre Beach and Pensacola Beach was closed. One emergency official reported downed trees and other damage in the Fort Walton Beach area in the Florida Panhandle from a severe storm cell.
"We were saturated before this even started ... I'm a bit concerned about what the next 24 hours will bring," real estate broker John Rickman in Pensacola said.
In Alabama, streets were flooded and beaches were closed on the barrier island of Dauphin Island. Some roads were covered with water in the seafood village of Bayou La Batre, but Becca Caldemeyer still managed to get to her bait shop at the city dock. If only there were more customers, she said.
"It's pretty quiet," Caldemeyer said by phone from Rough Water Bait and Tackle. "Nobody can cast a shrimp out in this kind of wind."
Forecasters expected rain totals of 6 to 9 inches (150-220 millimeters), with up to 12 inches (300 millimeters) possible in some spots in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle. East Texas rain totals were expected to be from 3 to 6 inches (80-150 millimeters).
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered the State Operations Center to raise its readiness level. He also activated four Texas Task Force 1 boat squads and two Texas Military Department vehicles squads of five vehicles each to respond to any weather-related emergencies.
The Louisiana National Guard dispatched high water vehicles and helicopters into flood-prone areas. The state said the Federal Emergency Management Agency also was moving 125,000 meals and 200,000 liters of water into Louisiana. And workers on Grand Isle, Louisiana's barrier island community south of New Orleans, worked to reinforce a rock levee protecting the island's vulnerable west side.
"All arms of the state's emergency preparedness and response apparatus are taking Tropical Storm Cindy seriously, and we are calling on all Louisianans throughout the state to do so as well," Edwards said in a statement early Wednesday.