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Hurricane Lili  Weakens after Battering Louisiana - 2002-10-03

Hurricane Lili has been downgraded to a tropical storm, after ravishing much of the U.S. state of Louisiana Thursday.

Meteorologists say Lili remains a dangerous storm, but no longer qualifies as a hurricane. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Lili's sustained winds registered 145-kilometers an hour when the storm came ashore from the Gulf of Mexico, but have since decreased.

The storm flooded several Louisiana towns, ripped limbs from trees, sent debris hurtling through the air, and left tens-of-thousands of people without power.

The storm is headed on a northerly path that, meteorologists expect will take it over parts of Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee in coming days. Meteorologists say, despite decreased winds, Lili remains capable of causing severe flooding.

Wednesday, Lili's winds briefly reached 225-kilometers an hour, as the storm bore down on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Nearly half a million people along a 500-kilometer stretch of coastline from east Texas to the Mississippi River were told to evacuate their homes. Offshore oil rigs were shut down, and the U.S. space agency, NASA, closed its mission control center in Houston.

Many Louisiana residents were still cleaning up from another storm, Isidore, when they were told to brace for Lili. Isidore flooded parts of Louisiana last week, causing an estimated $100 million in damage.

Lili blew over western Cuba before entering the Gulf of Mexico earlier this week, and was blamed for eight deaths in the Caribbean.