- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 31, 2003

HOUSTON (AP) — A tropical storm that formed in the Gulf of Mexico yesterday was forecast to hit Texas’ central coast today, but meteorologists said they did not expect it to be severe.

At the same time, the year’s first major hurricane, Hurricane Fabian, was gathering strength far out in the Atlantic but was still several days from landfall.

Tropical Storm Grace triggered a tropical storm warning for the Texas coast from Corpus Christi to High Island, midway between Galveston and Port Arthur.

“As far as storms go, it is probably going to be a minimal tropical storm,” National Weather Service meteorologist Charles Roeseler said yesterday. But he added that it could produce as much as 12 inches of rain.

The storm could cause additional problems for the area where Hurricane Claudette in July caused an estimated $90 million in losses and wiped out dune systems, which protect central Texas’ coastal communities.

“If you have a home down there or people are vacationing for the Labor Day weekend, there would be nothing to stop water from cutting off roads,” Mr. Roeseler said.

Meteorologist Bill Read said wind speeds were about 45 mph yesterday and could strengthen to 60 to 65 mph before Grace’s expected landfall this afternoon.

Mr. Read said there was still quite a bit of uncertainty about what Grace would do, but it lacked the organization of other fast-developing storms such as Hurricane Alicia in 1983.

Alicia went from a disturbance forming 300 miles from Galveston to a Category 3 tempest in less than 72 hours, killing dozens of people and causing billions of dollars in damage.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Fabian continued building strength as it swirled out in the Atlantic, but forecasters said the system was still several days from land.

Fabian became the third hurricane of the Atlantic season Friday. Its maximum sustained winds increased to 115 mph yesterday, up from 75 mph a day earlier. It could continue strengthening today.

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