Thousands without Power in Alabama

Hurricane Katrina inflicted heavy damage along the Gulf Coast as it swept through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. In Mobile, Ala., the storm surge brought water into downtown, flooding the area. Power was out to thousands in the region.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

In Mobile, Alabama, the storm surge brought water into the downtown flooding the area. Power was out to thousands in the region. NPR's Kathy Lohr visited the area just north of the city and has this report.

KATHY LOHR reporting:

Katrina's winds whipped through Alabama popping power lines and snatching off rooftops. Last night, the familiar warmth and light usually coming from local businesses and homes was gone. It was replaced by the eerie darkness, broken only by patches of lightning. George Raye, a firefighter in Satsuma, about 20 miles north of Mobile, says downed trees are everywhere. Whole, huge trees that will take some time to clean up.

(Soundbite of ocean surf)

Mr. GEORGE RAYE (Firefighter): Since the ground's so saturated due to the--our afternoon thunderstorms and the local rain before the hurricane got here, we had a lot of oak trees uproot because they have shallow root systems, instead of the pine trees where they have a long, deep root system.

LOHR: The rain and wind are still pounding the Gulf Coast. Raye says some residents were forced to evacuate due to flooding.

(Soundbite of ocean surf)

Mr. RAYE: It's a little worse than what we were expecting. We thought we were going to have more in Mississippi than we did in Alabama.

LOHR: Outside the North Mobile Retirement Center, one by one firefighters and police are moving those inside to a shelter because the retirement center's roof has blown off and the rain began to come inside.

(Soundbite of door being opened)

LOHR: Elizabeth Frye, owner of the center and a nurse, walks down a wet and dark hallway holding a flashlight.

(Soundbite of footsteps on a wet floor)

LOHR: This building was standing for 50 years, but she says this time the roof could not withstand Hurricane Katrina.

Ms. ELIZABETH FRYE (Owner, North Mobile Retirement Center): When the shingles came off, there was quite a bit of water coming through, and we were trying to contain it, catching it in buckets. But it was beyond that because you can see here the floor is wet.

LOHR: Ten pails of water tried to hold the rain. They are still strewn down the hallway.

Mr. CAESAR CERETTA(ph) (Three Amigos Restaurant(ph)): (Foreign language spoken)

LOHR: Four miles south at the Three Amigos Restaurant, Caesar Ceretta and his crew pry off the plywood and tin sheets that the high winds have peeled away. He's getting a head start on the cleanup.

(Soundbite of metal being cleaned up)

LOHR: Ceretta and his team are the only ones out there.

Mr. CERETTA: The roof fell--metal roof was blown off with part of the dining section. That's the patio and there was some water damage inside, but not too major. Kind of--so, hopefully, we'll be ready to go tomorrow.

LOHR: The crew plans to work throughout the night to put on a new roof and to clean up the water inside the restaurant. They say, if they can get their restaurant open, they know there'll be plenty of business. Kathy Lohr, NPR News.

MONTAGNE: If you are among those affected by the hurricane, we want to hear about your experiences. You'll find a link to e-mail us at npr.org, as well as the latest information about the storm's impact.

You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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