Hurricane Juan, with winds up to 85 mph, moved north through the Gulf of Mexico yesterday, swamping boats and oil rigs and stranding about 1,400 people in one Louisiana town as it lashed the shore and forced evacuations.
A supply boat capsized in the Gulf and left two people missing, while at least four other boats and two offshore oil rigs issued distress calls, but Juan's high winds and heavy seas prevented Coast Guard boats and helicopters from mounting rescue efforts, a spokesman said.
Juan, upgraded from a tropical storm in the afternoon, was southwest of New Orleans late yesterday and was heading north-northwest. Landfall was expected before dawn today, possibly along the south-central Louisiana coast, said Bob Case, a forecaster with the National Hurricane Center in Coral Gables, Fla.
Two crewmen were picked up by a nearby boat after the Miss Agnes, a vessel used to ferry men and supplies to offshore oil rigs, capsized, and two were missing, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Thomas Peck.
In Grand Isle, La., anyone who hadn't made it over Highway 1 to the mainland by evening had to stay after the highway flooded. Mayor Pro Tem Phillip L. Bradberry Jr. estimated that 70 percent of the town's nearly 2,000 residents remained on the island.
At 10 p.m. CST, the hurricane's center was about 125 miles southwest of New Orleans and 75 miles from Grand Isle. The storm was moving north-northwest at 15 mph.
Meanwhile in the Pacific, Hurricane Nele's winds dropped below 100 mph as it veered away from the Hawaiian Islands. Nele was reported several hundred miles southwest of Oahu, drifting north at about 14 mph.
A hurricane watch for Hawaii was canceled, and Nele is expected to dissipate gradually over several days in the open ocean, forecasters said