Weather-watchers eye Dennis as Cindy drenches Louisiana

Tropical storm Cindy moved along the Mississippi Gulf Coast Wednesday after pelting the Louisiana coast with sideways rain and intermittent squalls

Close to 250,000 homes and businesses in the New Orleans area were left without electricity Wednesday after a weakening Tropical Storm Cindy moved inland.

The storm moved along the Mississippi Gulf Coast after pelting the Louisiana coast with rain driven sideways and intermittent squalls.

Trees and garbage littered the streets of New Orleans, which was battered with 112 km/hr-winds and up to 10 centimetres of rain.

The weakening Cindy is not expected to become a hurricane, but has forced some tourists and residents to head for higher ground and oil companies to evacuate rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

Officials say no injuries have been reported because of the storm.

However, forecasters are warning another tropical storm, Dennis, could hit Florida later in the week.

With winds of up to 105 km/hr, forecasters warn it could turn into a hurricane by late Wednesday. Hurricane warnings have been posted for Jamaica and southwestern Haiti, while watches have been extended from the Cayman Islands and eastern Cuba.

The two names might seem familiar to Atlantic storm watchers.

In August 1999, hurricane Dennis whipped up surf off the coasts of North and South Carolina, but it didn't cause much damage on land.

Hurricane Cindy also materialized that year, but created even less of an impact.

The meteorologists in charge of labelling hurricane systems regularly recycle lists of names, except in the case of particular storms that cause major damage and loss of life. Those names are retired.

This is the first time in recorded history that four storms have been named this early in the Atlantic hurricane season, forecasters pointed out Tuesday.