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Ida's rain, wind hit north Gulf Coast

Tropical Storm Ida crashed into the northern Gulf Coast early this morning, bringing heavy rains and blustery winds that could extend into the Tampa Bay area throughout the day.

Ida — a rare November storm to threaten the United States — caused havoc as it made its way toward the Gulf Coast.

Near New Orleans, a 70-year-old man was feared drowned after trying to help two fishermen whose boat had broken down in the Mississippi River.

The last tropical storm to make landfall in the United States this late in the season was Hurricane Mitch, which swept across South Florida on Nov. 5, 1998. Before that, it was Hurricane Kate, a Category 2 storm that hit near Apalachicola on Nov. 21, 1985.

After being a Category 2 hurricane, Ida weakened Monday as it raced north-northwest toward the northern Gulf Coast. Tropical storm warnings stretched from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.

Ida was expected to create rainy conditions, possibly storms, in the Tampa Bay area. The biggest threat here is for boaters, who are advised to stay home. Forecasters said winds will be up to 25 knots, while waves will reach up to 10 feet.

But near its point of landfall, the year's first tropical threat after a calm Atlantic storm season failed to inspire much fear.

"We can ride it out right here," said T.J. Covacevich, 50, who wore a "Hurricane Hunter" T-shirt as he tied down his powerboat in a Biloxi, Miss., harbor.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who issued a state of emergency for all Florida counties Monday, warned that tropical storms still can be deadly. He pointed to Fay, which was blamed for more than a dozen deaths in Florida, Haiti and the Dominican Republic last year.

"That thing was a tropical storm and we lost a lot of our fellow Floridians, so it's important to stay vigilant," Crist said outside the state emergency operations center. "We need to be careful."

Tropical storm warnings were issued Monday for Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Ida had been the third Atlantic hurricane of this year's season. It was not expected to regain strength.

To the north, Ida threatens to dump up to 8 inches of rain, which could cause flooding, meteorologists said.

In the Tampa Bay area, Ida will introduce a cold front in its wake, bringing strong winds, cloudiness, cooler temperatures and possible thunderstorms.

"On Tuesday evening, we may be getting thunderstorms that may be severe," said Anthony Reynes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Chances of rain decrease Wednesday, Reynes said.

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Ida's rain, wind hit north Gulf Coast 11/09/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 12, 2009 12:05pm]
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