Tropical Storm Edouard forms off Louisiana coast

August 3, 2008 9:45:25 PM PDT
Tropical Storm Edouard churned west in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday night and was expected to strengthen to a near-hurricane before making landfall somewhere in Texas on Tuesday. The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for the coasts of western Louisiana and eastern Texas late Sunday, meaning hurricane conditions were possible the next 24 hours from Intracoastal City to Port O'Connor, Texas.

Edouard, packing 50-mph maximum sustained winds, is the fifth tropical storm of the 2008 hurricane season. At 10 p.m. CDT, its center was located about 80 miles east-southeast off the mouth of the Mississippi River and about 390 miles east of Galveston, Texas.

It was moving west at 5 mph and was expected to strengthen before making landfall Tuesday morning in Texas. Forecasters said the warm waters of the Gulf provided the right conditions for the storm to intensify and approach hurricane strength with winds of 75 mph or more.

Southeastern Texans prepared for Edouard's impact while the victims farther down the Texas coast continued cleaning up the damage from Hurricane Dolly, which hit last month.

Krista Piferrer, a spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, said Sunday that state emergency management officials were getting updates through conference calls with the National Weather Service.

Texas began activating a number of emergency teams Sunday afternoon, including calling up 1,200 Texas military forces and six UH-60 helicopters, the State Operations Center said. The Texas Forest Service and the Texas Engineering and Extension Service activated response teams.

State emergency management officials were also conducting conference calls with officials from communities along the Texas coast, from Port O'Connor to Port Arthur, that could be affected by Edouard.

Rainfall of 1 to 2 inches was expected in coastal Louisiana. About 2 to 4 inches was possible in southeast Texas, with isolated amounts up to 6 inches. Tides of 2 to 4 feet above normal levels were expected in parts of the watch area.

In Louisiana's Terrebonne Parish, emergency director Jerry Richard said he had called in staff members to determine if the parish's low-lying areas could be affected by flooding.

They planned to monitor the storm through Sunday night. State emergency officials did not immediately return calls seeking details on emergency plans.

Many of the Gulf's offshore oil and natural gas drilling platforms sit in the storm's path.

Shell Oil Co. had not made any operational changes Sunday afternoon, but company officials were watching the storm closely, spokesman Shawn Wiggins said.

ExxonMobil Corp. had not evacuated any workers or cut production by Sunday evening, but the company was preparing its platforms for heavy wind and rain and considering whether to evacuate some workers, spokeswoman Margaret Ross said in an e-mail statement.