Edouard Heads For Texas, Louisiana

Robert Barnes right and an assistant board up the windows at the Gulf Health Care Center in preparation for tropical storm Edouard on Aug. 4, 2008 in Galveston, Texas. The storm is expected to make landfall Tuesday.
AP PHOTO
Residents along the Texas and Louisiana coasts prepared Monday for Tropical Storm Edouard, which was rolling through the warm waters of the Gulf and threatening to reach near-hurricane strength before making landfall.

In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a statewide emergency, and two communities in the western part of the state, Vermilion Parish and Cameron Parish, asked thousands of residents to evacuate low-lying coastal areas that are prone to flooding. The storm was expected to hit Tuesday morning anywhere from western Louisiana to Port O'Connor, Texas.

While forecasters don't expect Edoaurd to strengthen to a hurricane, they are worried about flooding, reports CBS Early Show Weather Anchor Dave Price. If the storm stalls over land it could drop as much as a foot of rain.

Emergency teams have been activated in Texas, Price reports, but are already stretched thin after last month's unwelcome visitor -- Hurricane Dolly.

For vacationers, the timing of the storm couldn't be worse: The Texas coast banks on tourism at this time of year, with much of the state baking in 100-degree weather. The storm also comes in the wake of Hurricane Dolly, which took aim at the resort community of South Padre Island on July 23.

Forecasters say Edouard is likely to hit west of Galveston, which is in the peak of its tourist season, when the city's population of about 60,000 doubles. While the storm-seasoned town was watching the storm, no evacuations were ordered and local officials were merely urging caution.

"We are not telling anybody to leave," said Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas. "We are asking citizens and our visitors to pay attention to the weather and use their own judgment as to whether to ride out the storm on the island, knowing there will be power outages during the night or tomorrow."

As Edouard approached, oil and gas companies in the Gulf of Mexico evacuated workers from 23 production platforms and six rigs, according to the U.S. Minerals Management Service, which monitors offshore activity. The Gulf of Mexico has 717 manned platforms and 125 operating rigs, the MMS said.

Edouard is not likely to disrupt production, according to one financial firm that specializes in the energy industry. "He'll just be (a) little tropical storm tike compared to big mammas that rip things up and spike gas prices," the Houston-based securities firm Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. said in a note to investors Monday.

Shell Oil Co. said Monday morning it had begun evacuating about 40 workers from some of its operations in the western Gulf. The company said no further evacuations were planned based on the current forecast and that it expected no impact on production.

Exxon Mobil Corp. said Monday afternoon it was preparing for heavy weather associated with Edouard, preparing platforms and other structures for heavy wind and rain and identifying workers for potential evacuation. But the company said no evacuations had taken place and production had not been affected.

A tropical storm warning was in effect from the mouth of the Mississippi River westward to Port O'Connor in Texas. A hurricane watch was in effect from west of Intracoastal City, Louisiana, to Port O'Connor.

At 5 p.m. EDT, Edouard had maximum sustained winds near 45 mph, with higher gusts. The storm's center was located about 135 miles south-southeast of Lafayette, Louisiana, and 215 miles east-southeast of Galveston, Texas.

The storm was moving west near 7 mph, and forecasters said the warm waters of the Gulf provided the right conditions for the storm to intensify and approach hurricane strength with winds of 74 mph or more.

About 260 miles down the coast from Galveston, South Padre Island was just starting to get back on its feet from Hurricane Dolly.

The busiest part of the Atlantic hurricane season is usually in August and September. So far this year, there have been five named storms, two of which became hurricanes. U.S. forecasters predict a total of 12 to 16 named storms and six to nine hurricanes this season.