- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2008

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) | Surfers and joggers were back at the beach Tuesday after Tropical Storm Edouard brushed past and caused little damage, while inland farmers hoped the storm’s remnants would help ease drought conditions.

“Galveston is open for business, and we certainly welcome the tourists back to the island,” said City Manager Steve LeBlanc, whose city of about 60,000 typically doubles in population during the peak tourist months.

Forecasters had feared Edouard could become a hurricane, and both Texas and Louisiana prepared for an emergency.

But when it made landfall east of Galveston and west of the Louisiana border, between the small coastal town of High Island and Sabine Pass, winds gusted as high as 65 mph, which is 9 mph below hurricane strength. The storm then weakened to a tropical depression as it moved toward Houston Tuesday afternoon.

“Texas is grateful that this storm did not escalate to hurricane strength before making landfall on our shores,” said Gov. Rick Perry.

Inland Texas and western Louisiana prepared for several inches of rain that could help ease drought conditions.

Ranchers and farmers in central and southeastern Texas along Interstate 10 would welcome the relief, said John Nielsen-Gammon, the state’s climatologist at Texas A&M; University.

Parts of those areas remain in exceptional drought, according to last week’s U.S. Drought Monitor map. Some ranchers are finding it difficult to feed their livestock.

The rain “will help in the short term at least,” Mr. Nielsen-Gammon said. “You’ll see some green-up. Ideally, if you get enough rain you can sustain a good bit of growth and maybe get some hay out of it.”

Jim McAdams, a fourth-generation rancher and past president of the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, wasn’t at home Tuesday to see whether rain from Edouard was falling on his ranch just southeast of San Antonio.

He got an inch or so from Hurricane Dolly a couple of weeks ago, which greened up his pastures, he said. But it’s been a tough year.

“Overall, it’s just one of those years everybody’s just hanging on living from one rain to the next,” he said.

Galveston and surrounding areas were grateful they dodged the fate of another Texas tourist draw, South Padre Island, which was hit by the 100-mph gusts of Dolly last month.

Earlier forecasts had the center of Edouard passing over Galveston, but the only noticeable damage after the storm was to a tree on the city’s golf course.

A few hours later, surfers were riding the waves and beaches were filled with joggers and people walking their dogs, as they would on any other summer day.

At 5 p.m., the storm’s center was about 35 miles north-northeast of Houston and moving 9 mph slowly west-northwest toward central Texas. Wind speeds had dropped to about 35 mph.

Edouard cut production about 6 percent from the Gulf of Mexico’s normal daily oil output, the U.S. Mineral Management Service said. Natural gas production was cut by about 12 percent.

Oil and gas companies evacuated 154 of the 717 manned platforms and nine of the 125 exploratory rigs in the Gulf.



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