October 18, 2019 / 9:24 PM / a month ago

Tropical storm menaces U.S. southeast, New Orleans to demolish cranes

(Reuters) - Tropical Storm Nestor barreled toward Florida’s Gulf Coast on Friday, packing life-threatening storm surge, with New Orleans preparing to demolish two damaged construction cranes officials fear could collapse in high winds.

Florida cities such as Indian Pass faced up to five feet (1.5 meters) of storm surge while parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana could be pummeled by gale force winds and up to six inches of rain, the National Hurricane Center said.

The center of Storm Nestor was set to hit the northern Gulf Coast late on Friday then move inland across the southeast on Saturday and Sunday, the center said.

New Orleans planned to use a series of controlled explosions to knock down two badly damaged cranes towering over the Hard Rock Hotel construction project that partially collapsed on Saturday, killing three workers.

The project is at the edge of the city’s French Quarter and authorities hope to demolish the cranes around noon Saturday without damaging historic buildings, city fire chief Timothy McConnell told reporters on Friday.

A 250-mile stretch of Florida Gulf coastline from Indian Pass southeast to Chassahowitzka faced up to five feet of storm surge. Further south, Clearwater Beach could get up to 4 feet and Tampa Bay up to 3 feet, the hurricane center reported.

“The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline,” the center said in a statement.

Some strengthening of Nestor was expected as it heads northeast through the Gulf of Mexico with maximum winds of near 60 mph (95 kph), though it was forecast to weaken after it hit land. After soaking the southeast, it is forecast to move off the coast of North Carolina into the western Atlantic late Sunday.

Reporting By Andrew Hay; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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