Gulf Coast, LA, MS, AL, FL Hurricane BETSY, Sep 1965
HURRICANE BETSY RIPS INTO NEW ORLEANS.
250,000 FLEE BIG STORM IN FOUR-STATE GULF AREA.
TROPIC BLOW PACKS WINDS OF 150 mph.
New Orleans (UPI) -- Hurricane Betsy smashed into New Orleans early today with 150-mph winds, shattering plate glass windows, knocking down trees and littering the streets of the famed French Quarter with debris.
An estimated 250,000 persons in four states along the Gulf coast had fled their homes earlier as the mammoth storm roared in.
Betsy hit the Crescent City with her full force, causing many injuries, flooding some areas, and ripping off roofs.
Almost all of the city was darkened by power failures.
Charity Hospital reported many persons were treated for injuries most of them caused by flying glass and debris.
Police said they had lost most of their radio communications and it was believed a 190-foot police radio tower had been toppled by the high winds.
Police Lieut. MARVIN LEONARD said numerous areas of the city were flooded and "many homes have lost their roofs."
Charity Hospital, the largest hospital in the state, was operating with emergency power.
Despite heavy rain, numerous small fires erupted throughout the city but fire department officials said none of them had become serious.
Directly Over City.
Weather Bureau sources reported the eye of the hurricane would pass directly over the city.
Few persons except police ventured into the streets during the height of the storm.
Betsy, which roared into the southeast Florida coast Tuesday night after battering Nassau in the Bahamas, claimed its seventh victim Thursday night -- a man killed at Panama City, Fla., in the collapse of a seawall.
Betsy was hammering the Gulf coast with its winds from Louisiana through Mississippi, Alabama, and into Florida.
As the hurricane howled into New Orleans, the roof of the Tulane Room, a popular New Orleans nightspot, was ripped off. The club's ballroom, which can hold 1,000 people, was emply when the vicious winds lifed the roof.
Betay, a highly erratic howler, pushed a 6 to 12 foot wall of water ahead of her and packed killer winds of up to 150 miles an hour.
Hurricane force winds slammed into New Orleans just shortly after city officials ordered 100,000 residents from their homes along a mile stretch of the south shore at Lake Pontchartrain.
The area included one of New Orleans' most exclusive residential sections.
The first blast left 50 per cent of New Orleans without power, and Radio Stations WDSU and WWL were knocked off the air.
Howling winds raked the small Mississippi River towns of Venice, Boothville and Buras, about 70 miles south of New Orleans. Boothville and Venice were virtually deserted, the residents having fled earlier in the day.
In Plaquemines Parish (county), where winds were clocked at 80 to 90 mph. Safety Director LUKE PETROVICH reported:
"We are just trying to preserve life."
Trapped In Building.
A river pilot, trapped in a building with a dozen other persons near the mouth of the Mississippi River, reported his instruments for measuring wind velocity broke at 120 mph when Betsy passed over him.
"We had to open the windows to let the wind blow through and rain is pouring in," Capt. PAUL MELASOVICH said in a telephone conversation.
"I don't know why this phone is working or how long we'll last."
"There's no way out for us," he added. "We can't even leave the building."
The house in which MELASOVICH and the others were riding out the storm is used by river pilots before they board freighters entering the Mississippi River for trips to New Orleans.
In addition to the 100,000 who left their homes in New Orleans, 85,000 persons were evacuated along the Louisiana coast, 10,000 ran for cover along the Mississippi coast -- the biggest evacuation in the state's history -- and thousands of others fled the Alabama and northwest Floriada coasts.
One of the Louisiana parishes evacuated was tiny Cameron, where Hurricane Audrey took 500 lives in 1957.
As Betsy whipped through New Orleans, police said water in one section of the city near Lake Pontchartrain rose to window levels of stranded automobiles. They said they feared a levee had broken.
Towering waves whipped up by Betsy's furious winds splashed over the seven-foot tall seawall ringing the lake.
In Alabama, a special force of 40 state troopers was sent to the Mobile area to give assistance.
A small tornado spawned by Betsy slammed into a small boat basin near Fort Walton Beach, Cla., east of Pensacola. Twelve boats were damaged, but there were no injuries.
The highway patrol reported waves of up to 14 feet were pounding Fort Morgan Peninsula, which stretches more than halfway across the mouth of Mobile Bay.
US-98, which runs from Pensacola to Spanish Fort, Ala., was reported blocked by fallen power lines and other debris.
Two barges were reported loose in Mobile Bay and authorities feared they might crash into a bridge. Efforts were being made to secure the barges.
Several other highways along the Alabama coast were closed by flooding.
Towering waves were breaking over the seawall at Pascagoula, Miss., where 5,000 took shelter.
Water also began creeping up the six-foot seawall along the 26-mile strip of coast stretching from Pass Christian to Biloxi, Miss., the longest manmade beach in the world.
Until Last Moment.
Biloxi's famous nightclubs, with their neon lights beckoning customers, remained open up until the last moment.
At Pensacola, Fla., an unidentified man fell off a fishing dock into the heavy surf and drowned Thursday afternoon, thus becoming Betsy's sixth victim.
Betsy claimed five lives when she blasted into the southeast Florida coast late Tuesday.
About 3,000 persons were evacuated from Santa Rosa Island, off the Florida coast, and 200 feet of the island's fishing pier was destroyed by flood tides.
Emergency shelters were quickly opened from Bay St. Louis, on the extreme western Mississippi coast, to the Mobile Bay area.
In Mobile, Red Cross shelters at 29 locations were readied, capable of handling 30,200 persons.
"We hope the people don't panic," said Civil Defense Director LYNN WARREN.
Ingalls Shipyard, where millions of dollars in ships are under construction at Pascagoula, battened down.
The Standard Oil refinery at Pascagoula shut off its pipelline to wells in the Gulf and brought in all rig workers.
Twenty-six shelters were opened in Jackson County and Pascagoula.
Aircraft were moved out or placed in protective hangars at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Brookley Air Force Base at Mobile and Keesler Air Force Base at Biloxi.
The aircraft carrier Lexington left Pensacola for open sea.
Large fishing fleets which operate out of Bayou La Batre and Mississippi Gulf ports were moved inland.
Albuquerque Journal New Mexico 1965-09-10