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Tropical Weather Moves in on Oil Spill Site

A tropical depression that has suspended BP's drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has weakened somewhat, but forecasters still expect it to become Tropical Storm Danielle.

Heavy rain came up the southeastern Louisiana coast into the New Orleans region early Wednesday. But National Weather Service forecast Shawn O'Neil says that rain was due to an upper-level disturbance not really tied to the depression.

O'Neil says the first true storm bands from the depression will reach the coast later Wednesday.

There are signs the storm is weakening: top winds have dropped to about 30 miles per hour. But O'Neil says a tropical storm is still expected.

O'Neil says that under the current track, the center of storm will make landfall in Plaquemines Parish, move through St. Bernard Parish, then go into Hancock County, Miss.

Crews that are drilling the final feet of the relief well intended to permanently plug the damaged BP oil well deep below the Gulf of Mexico will have to wait two to three days as the storm bears down on the site.

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BP and Coast Guard officials had already decided to stop drilling earlier Tuesday, before forecasters at the National Hurricane Center named the storm a depression. A tropical storm warning was issued for much of the Gulf of Mexico coast affected by the oil spill.

The center of the storm was located off Florida, more than 200 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River on Wednesday.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man on the spill, said the last steps will have to wait for ending any threat from the well that spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil over three months before a temporary cap sealed it in mid-July.

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