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Hurricane Pounds Cuba, Heads to U.S. Gulf Coast

Weather: Lili rips up trees and destroys houses on island. The storm is expected to hit near the Louisiana- Texas border.

October 02, 2002|From Times Wire Services

CORTES, Cuba — Hurricane Lili uprooted trees and destroyed homes in western Cuba with 100-mph winds Tuesday before entering the Gulf of Mexico on a path that threatens the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Cuba evacuated 360,000 people from threatened areas, but no casualties were reported. Earlier, the storm killed eight people in Jamaica and St. Vincent.

NASA postponed today's scheduled launch of the space shuttle Atlantis. The space agency said it did not want to take a chance of launching Atlantis in Florida, only to have the hurricane bear down on Houston, home to Mission Control.

In southern Louisiana, residents faced their second evacuation in a week. "We're probably going to be evacuating" this morning, said Ray Santiny, city councilman on the barrier island of Grand Isle, south of New Orleans.

Lili followed a track similar to that of Hurricane Isidore, which caused extensive flooding in Cuba's western tip only 11 days ago, before battering Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said a hurricane watch was in effect along the Gulf Coast from San Luis Pass, Texas, to the mouth of the Mississippi River. Lili was projected to hit a point on the U.S. coast near the Texas-Louisiana border Thursday, U.S. forecasters said.

Lili is a Category 2 storm, capable of damaging homes and trees and causing considerable damage to mobile homes and poorly built signs and piers.

A day after pounding Jamaica, Lili plowed through Cuba's tobacco-growing province of Pinar del Rio, picking up speed and moving into the gulf. Little damage to the crop was expected.

Reporters who witnessed Lili's passage said fallen trees and telephone lines blocked streets. Power supplies were down, and roads to some small towns were cut off.

"My God, my house was small, but it was my house. Now I have no house!" wept a woman on the outskirts of Pinar del Rio city, who gave her name only as Zenaida.

Cuban meteorologists said Lili could gather more force as it moves over the warm gulf.

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