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Downgraded but not out, Lili rumbles on

President declares parts of Louisiana a disaster area

lili
A tree uprooted by Hurricane Lili landed on this home in Abbeville, Louisiana.

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Tropical Storm Lili
At 11 p.m. ET Thursday
Latitude: 32.4 degrees north
Longitude: 92.0 degrees west Position: Near Monroe,  Louisiana
Top sustained winds: 40 mph
SPECIAL REPORT
• Gallery: Lili hits Gulf Coast
• Flash animation: Follow a hurricane ashore
• Interactive: Top 10 worst hurricanes
• Interactive: Lili's projected track
• Special report: Hurricane Season
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CNN's Frank Buckley says Hurricane Lili caused structural damage and overturned trucks (October 3)
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CNN meteorologist Chad Myers gives a lesson in Hurricanes 101. (October 3)
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Animation of a flight over a hurricane. (October 3)
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Animation of a hurricane formation. (October 3)
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NEW IBERIA, Louisiana, (CNN) -- Tropical Storm Lili pounded Louisiana with heavy rain and fierce winds Thursday as it moved inland, no longer a hurricane but still packing enough force to knock out power to hundreds of thousands of homes after wreaking wet havoc across the state's southern parishes.

"This storm is far from over," said Joe Allbaugh, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "We can't take anything for granted."

The latest report from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, put Lili about 10 miles south of Monroe, moving north-northeast around 16 mph.

About 450,000 homes across the state were without power, said Dusty Shenofsky of the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness. About 2,000 people had lost their phone service, she said.

The most severe damage reports were coming from the city of New Iberia and nearby Acadia Parish. Two people in Acadia were injured when a roof collapsed, a spokeswoman for the parish's emergency operations center said. Two utility workers suffered minor injuries when a wall of bricks fell on their car, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office said.

Shenofsky said a police officer in Pointe Coupee Parish, northwest of Baton Rouge, suffered minor injuries when a tree fell on his car.

Also hard-hit was Vermilion Parish, where the storm came ashore Thursday morning with winds of around 100 mph. By the afternoon, its maximum sustained winds were down to 50 mph with higher gusts.

Maxine Trahan, a spokeswoman for the Acadia Parish Sheriff's Office, said power for the entire parish of 55,000 people was out.

The town of Crowley, replete with large, historic homes and old live oak trees, was hit especially hard, Trahan said. One car dealer's showroom windows were blown out, she said.

The storm snapped trees, ripped off roofs and shingles, knocked down traffic signs and cut down utility wires in New Iberia, a town of 34,000.

Lili even caused rare whitecaps on the town's normally peaceful bayou, said Mayor Ruth Fontenot. Jolyn Fleming, secretary to the Iberia Parish president, said the sugar cane crop in the region, which is being harvested now, was hit hard.(New Iberia rides out storm)

Despite the punch Lili was predicted to pack, there were no reports of deaths by Thursday afternoon,and only the scattered reports of injuries.

"We've been very, very lucky so far," Shenofsky said.

The hurricane center predicted the giant storm surge brought by Lili would decrease throughout the evening, but flooding along the storm's path remained a large threat.

Shenofsky said reports received at her office so far indicated the flooding was severe in the low-lying areas. One woman called to say she left a shelter to check on her house in one of the southern parishes and found five feet of water inside.

Across the state, nearly 13,000 people were taking advantage of the 98 shelters that were open, she said. She said about 325 people were in shelters in neighboring Mississippi.

In Terrebonne Parish, on the Gulf coast, high water displaced 25,000 people, said Allbaugh, who was preparing to head to the state. President Bush declared a number of parishes in Louisiana a disaster area Thursday.

Allbaugh estimated 150,000 people in various coastal parishes were out of their homes.

As it moves farther inland, Lili could dump as much as eight inches of rain in some areas, which could cause dangerous flooding, the hurricane center said. It also brings the risk of tornadoes.

Two tornadoes touched down around noon in Lafayette Parish, said Lt. Ray Schexnider with the local emergency operations center. There were no reports of damage or injuries, he said.

The storm also ripped the roof off a motel and caused some flooding, he said, but he added that the tidal surge was not as high as was feared.

In all, nearly 900,000 people were covered by evacuation orders as Lili approached -- many of whom heeded the warning and sought refuge further inland, Shenofsky said.(Evacuations by state)



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