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Close calls in New Orleans

Published September 4, 2005

While Louisiana has been hit by four hurricanes ranked at least Category 3 in the past 40 years, residents also have braced for predicted storms that skirted to one side or another, or decreased in intensity, resulting in relatively minor losses. For instance, just in the past seven years New Orleans was warned about the following storms, only to escape significant damage:

September 1998: Georges heads for the mouth of the Mississippi River, close to New Orleans, with winds up to 115 mph. Hundreds of thousands flee the city and suburbs. But about 16 hours from predicted landfall, Georges drops to Category 2 as it veers east and hits Biloxi. Winds in New Orleans measure just 40 mph, though there is some flooding and thousands of people lose electrical service.

September-October 2002: Both sides of Lake Pontchartrain get drenched, as unexpectedly strong Tropical Storm Isidore drops as much as 17 inches of rain and causes the lake to flood northside homes. Just eight days later, Hurricane Lili, a Category 4 while in the gulf, heads toward New Orleans and the resulting evacuation causes traffic jams up to 10 miles long. But Lili drops to Category 2 and slides west, largely sparing the area, though 40-mph winds topple trees and cut power to an estimated 19,000 people.

September 2004: Ivan, a Category 4 hurricane as it roars northward through the gulf toward New Orleans, veers to the east, ravaging the Florida Panhandle.

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