Hurricane Danny skims Louisiana tip, moves northeast
Storm churns along Gulf CoastJuly 18, 1997
Web posted at: 2:11 p.m. EDT (1811 GMT)
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CENTRAL GULF COAST (CNN) -- Tropical Storm Danny strengthened to a hurricane early Friday as it swept across Louisiana's southeastern tip and moved slowly to the northeast, threatening to bring high winds and heavy downpours to Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle.
A hurricane warning was posted from Morgan City, Louisiana, to Destin, Florida.
Danny was a minimal hurricane, reaching top sustained winds of 75 mph as of 3 a.m. EDT. But the storm could bring 10 to 20 inches of rain to the Gulf Coast, CNN Senior Meteorologist Valerie Voss reported.
Frankie Douggan, the civil defense director in Biloxi, Mississippi, said his coastal city was told to expect 4- to 5-foot seas accompanied by winds of 40 to 50 miles an hour with gusts blowing even harder.
"If we manage that, we'll be in pretty good shape," he told CNN in a live interview Friday morning. But Douggan said the slow movement of the hurricane could pose a greater danger. "It's hard to tell what course it will take or how much strength it may build before it moves ashore."
Grand Isle, La., evacuates
The storm, traveling northeast at about 6 mph, sloshed through the sparsely populated Louisiana marshlands and moved back into the Gulf of Mexico early Friday morning.
Danny had sustained winds of 60 mph when it moved ashore late Thursday after languishing most of the day off the Louisiana coast, meteorologists said.
There were no reports of damage, although there was moderate flooding in some areas.
At Grand Isle, 60 miles south of New Orleans, long lines of cars formed on Louisiana Highway 1 as the area's 1,500 residents evacuated ahead of Danny.
Officials said the highway -- the only way off the island -- would be flooded by a 5-foot storm surge.
"The main reason I ordered everybody out is because we got plenty tourists on the island and I don't want nobody stuck here," said Grand Isle Mayor Arthur Bellanger.
'Big Easy' breathes easy
Evacuations were also ordered in parts of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes (counties) southwest of New Orleans, but people in some areas began returning to their homes Thursday night as the storm went east.
In low-lying St. Bernard Parish, southeast of New Orleans, officials handed out sandbags to seal off flood-prone roads and recommended that residents leave.
"If we get an east or northeast wind, it could really push some water into parts of the parish outside of the hurricane protection levees," said Mike Sanders, spokesman for the St. Bernard Parish sheriff's department.
In New Orleans, late-night revelers on Bourbon Street barely broke stride as light rains and intermittent gusts swept the historic French Quarter.
Even though officials had feared flooding in the city, which is below sea level, Danny hit the Big Easy with a weak punch.
Mayor Marc Morial said city offices would open Friday, as usual.
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