- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) | 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, a Republican, 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.

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 heat.

The storm also hits in the wake of Hurricane Dolly, which took aim at the resort community of South Padre Island on July 23.

“This is not the time of year for anyone along the Texas coast to be interrupted by these storms,” said Dan Quandt, executive director of the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau. “A lot of people come just to get out of the heat.”

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 Edouard, 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.”

Connie Porter, owner of Avenue O Bed and Breakfast in Galveston, said she planned to watch the progression of the storm Monday, but she wasn’t worried about it. She said a storm like the one described might mean some debris and that people should take care of patio furniture, but she didn’t anticipate much more.

“It’s not going to be a huge issue for anybody in this area,” Miss Porter said.

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 (MMS), 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 forecast and that it expected no impact on production.

Exxon Mobil Corp. said Monday afternoon that 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.

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