CBSN

Tropical Storm Heads For Louisiana

With Tropical Storm Bill approaching, Ashley Raymer of Mandeville gets a good soaking as she sits on the sea wall along Lakeshore Drive in Mandeville, La., June 29, 2003.
AP
A tropical storm rapidly developed in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday and could have hurricane-force winds when it hits land somewhere along the Louisiana coast Monday night.

Tropical Storm Bill continued along its northward path late Sunday night. The storm was getting better organized, forecasters said.

"Bill could briefly reach minimal hurricane strength just as it's making landfall and because of that, we do have a hurricane watch in effect from Intracoastal City, La., eastward to Morgan City, La.," Stacy Stewart of the National Hurricane Center told CBS Radio News.

As of Sunday night, the storm had strengthened to 50 mph. The watch means hurricane conditions were possible in the area in the next 36 hours.

The storm was located about 220 miles south of Morgan City, La., on Sunday night, forecasters said.

"From the standpoint of wind, you're not going to get much if any structural damage, only the most poorly-constructed homes, mobile homes, manufactured housing, old dilapidated barns, stuff like that," said Stewart.

"There's probably going to be widespread flooding, and even though this system may not become a hurricane, the winds will still be strong enough to blow down many trees onto perhaps homes and even power lines," he added.

On Sunday, meteorologists said Tropical Storm Bill, the second named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season and the first Gulf storm, was expected to be mostly a rain producer.

Louisiana emergency managers are warning people to take precautions and expect flooding, reports Dave Cohen of CBS radio affiliate WWL-AM. The massive canal and pump system normally keeping greater New Orleans dry can't handle more than about two inches an hour, and Bill is packing a stronger punch.

After Bill's projected landfall east of Port Arthur in southwest Louisiana late Monday, the storm was expected to move off to the northeast.

Bill formed just after the 46th anniversary of Hurricane Audrey, one of the most destructive June hurricanes to hit the United States. It struck the Louisiana-Texas coast on June 27, 1957, with a 13.9-foot storm tide and wind gusting to 180 mph. It killed at least 390 people.

This season's first tropical storm, Ana, formed in April and was only a threat to shipping interests. The Atlantic hurricane season started June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

"What happens on these June storms, quite often, is they will form in the western Gulf of Mexico and rapidly move onshore. You don't have the warning you have with the September storms," said Steve Rinard, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles, La. "This thing could suddenly blossom up into a hurricane. These things can rapidly intensify or detensify. We've got to watch them accordingly."