Louisiana residents watch Isidore closely

Sept. 23, 2002 at 3:25 PM
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NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Residents along the low-lying Louisiana coast watched closely Monday to see if Tropical Storm Isidore would turn northward as a hurricane and possibly target them along the upper Gulf coast.

Hardware stores reported early sales of plywood, batteries and other supplies though no official evacuations had been ordered. Some oil companies were also removing non-essential personnel from offshore oil and gas platforms in the Gulf.

Shell Oil pulled 1,370 non-essential workers from its offshore rigs but left enough personnel to continue production, spokeswoman Helen Bow said Monday.

"We're closely monitoring the storm and if it's necessary to begin evacuation of remaining personnel we're confident that we can do that prior to the storm affecting those installations," she said.

ExxonMobil was monitoring the storm's movement but had not removed any of its workers as of noon Monday, spokesman Ed Burwell said.

Hurricane Isidore crashed into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula Monday and forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said it could reform as a hurricane once it passes over the last mass into the Gulf's warm water and then head northward.

Louisiana officials have been meeting since last Friday on a daily basis with federal officials and other state emergency officials to make sure they are on the same page.

"Our parishes have already started to put their staffs on standby and alert our personnel across the southern coast of Louisiana," said Michael Brown, assistant director of the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness.

New Orleans is the most vulnerable of several communities in the bayous of southern Louisiana because it sits about 6 feet below sea level in between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, about 100 miles from the Gulf.

It's been more than 25 years since a hurricane made a direct hit on New Orleans so some residents feel like they are over due. Elaborate evacuations systems are established for New Orleans and other coastal cities in such an emergency.

"We take anything that moves into the Gulf of Mexico very seriously around here," Brown said.

Sales of plywood, batteries, generators and other emergency supplies have picked up at hardware stores, which means residents are playing attention to Isidore, Brown said.

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