MIAMI (AFP) — Hurricane Humberto battered Texas and dragged on across Louisiana as a tropical storm Thursday, killing at least one person and leaving a trail of damage and flood warnings, authorities said.
Downgraded from a hurricane which blocked roads and shut down oil refineries in Texas, the storm plowed east into Louisiana, where memories are still fresh of the deadly Hurricane Katrina that devastated the state in 2005.
There, Humberto stormed past the city of Lake Charles where strong winds "took the roof off a trailer, knocked down some trees, some power lines," John Butterick of the local county emergency preparedness department told AFP.
Similar damage was incurred earlier in southeastern Texas, where Hurricane Humberto hurled power lines into the roads after hitting land Thursday morning, a local official said.
"Power lines are down, the roads are closed" near High Island where the storm blasted ashore, an official in the Galveston County sheriff's office told AFP.
Texas governor Rick Perry declared disaster areas in three southeastern counties, his office said in a statement.
CNN quoted authorities as saying that the storm killed an 80-year-old man in Texas. He was crushed by a metal roof which crashed down as Humberto blasted by, packing winds up to 135 kilometers (85 miles) per hour.
Television pictures showed roads there flooded with several inches of rain and mobile homes flipped over on their sides.
The storm dumped rain on parts of Texas already sodden from a stormy summer and threatened to pour up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) on parts of Louisiana, with heavy rain also due in Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.
The center in its latest advisory late Thursday afternoon downgraded Humberto to a tropical depression as it continued northeastward over Louisiana, with maximum sustained winds of 55 kilometers (35 miles) per hour.
"Isolated tornadoes are possible tonight in southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi," it said.
Weather authorities had warned of possible flooding in Louisiana but none was reported, Butterick said early Thursday afternoon after Hurricane Humberto was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm.
It had emerged as such over the Gulf of Mexico Wednesday and suddenly mushroomed into a hurricane just before slamming ashore on the Texas coast early Thursday.
Three oil refineries in Port Arthur, southeastern Texas, shut down when it knocked out their electricity supplies -- including the Motiva refinery, jointly run by Shell and Saudi Refining, which produces 285,000 barrels a day.
"The Port Arthur electric utility has experienced widespread outage in its service area as a result of Hurricane Humberto," Shell said in a statement.
Humberto also closed down refineries of the Valero energy company and the French group Total.
Humberto was the third hurricane of the 2007 Atlantic storm season, following two maximum category five hurricanes that slammed Mexico and Central America in August and earlier this month.
Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco had already declared a state of emergency as a precautionary measure on Wednesday.
In Texas, the governor activated search and rescue teams, including six black hawk helicopters, 50 military vehicles and 200 soldiers.
Central America and Mexico were hit by two massive category five hurricanes, Dean and Felix, in past weeks, which left more than 130 people dead in the region.
Another storm system, described by the hurricane center as a "poorly organized depression" was meanwhile gusting northwestward Thursday in the Caribbean 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) east of the Lesser Antilles islands.
It has a chance of becoming a tropical storm within the next 24 hours, the center said.
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