Hurricane Humberto crashes ashore

HOUSTON (AP) - Hurricane Humberto, which sprang up overnight, crashed ashore early Thursday near the Louisiana line, bringing sustained winds of up to 80 mph and heavy rain that raised flooding fears, the National Weather Service said.

Humberto was the first named storm to make landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast since the twin onslaughts of Katrina and Rita in 2005.

The greatest concern for Texas residents was the heavy rain falling in areas already inundated by a wet summer. Coastal areas of southwest Louisiana not fully recovered from Rita also were bracing for more misery.

"I'm in a FEMA trailer (because of Rita) and I'm on oxygen," said Albertha Garrett, 70, of Lake Charles, La., who spent the night at a shelter in the Lake Charles Civic Center. "I had to come to the civic center just in case the lights would go out, because I'm alone and I'm handicapped."

The Category 1 storm made landfall about 5 miles east of High Island, near the eastern tip of the Texas coast, then weakened and bore into central Louisiana, forecasters said.

"It's a very compact storm," meteorologist Jim Sweeney said. "The strongest winds are very close to the center of circulation. The hurricane force winds only go about 15 miles."

Power was knocked out for most of Beaumont and Port Arthur, Entergy Texas spokeswoman Debi Derrick said. She estimated about 100,000 customers were without power in the immediate wake of the storm.

One location blacked out was Jefferson County's Emergency Operations Center in Beaumont, where wind speeds of 75 to 80 mph were noted, said Michael White, the county's assistant emergency management coordinator. Officials were forced to track the storm with laptops, he said.

A hurricane warning had been issued from east of High Island to Cameron, La., while a tropical storm warning was posted to a section of Louisiana coast east of there. The storm had been expected to come ashore as a tropical storm until it energized into a Category 1 hurricane after midnight.

At 8 a.m. EDT, the center of Humberto was about 25 miles west-northwest of Lake Charles. It was moving toward the north-northeast near 12 mph.

The storm's rain bands were spreading over the coast and between 5 and 10 inches of rain were expected, with some spots possibly getting as much as 15 inches. But authorities said evacuations were not necessary.

"There has been some very heavy rainfall in extreme southeastern Texas. Today it's going to be across Louisiana, Mississippi and southeast Arkansas," said Daniel Brown, hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Texas has had one of the wettest summers on record, with Houston soaked under the most rain it's had in a summer since 1942. With the ground already saturated, flooding was likely.       Gov. Rick Perry activated 50 military vehicles with 200 soldiers, plus a half-dozen helicopters and two swift-water rescue teams. Other crews from the U.S. Coast Guard were on standby.

"Some areas of our state remain saturated by summer floods, and many communities in this storm's projected path are at high risk of dangerous flash flooding," Perry said.

In Louisiana, Gov. Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency. Calcasieu and Vermilion parishes had shelters on standby. Vermilion also was making sandbags and sand available, said Mark Smith, a spokesman for the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

The warning area included Louisiana's Cameron Parish, which was devastated by Hurricane Rita - with winds far stronger than Humberto - in September 2005. More than 500 federally issued travel trailers and mobile homes remain there.

Last month, at least six deaths were blamed on Tropical Storm Erin, which dropped nearly a foot of rain in parts of San Antonio, Houston and the Texas Hill Country.

In 2001, slow-moving Tropical Storm Allison soaked Houston, dumping about 20 inches of rain in eight hours. About two dozen people died, sections of the city were paralyzed and damage was estimated at roughly $5 billion.

Humberto is the eighth named storm this year and formed from a depression that developed Wednesday morning.

Another tropical depression formed Wednesday far in the open Atlantic, about 930 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. It had maximum sustained winds near 35 mph and was moving west-northwest at about 16 mph.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)