This NOAA satellite image taken Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008 at 1:15 a.m. EDT shows cloud cover in the Plains and Midwest. Near Chicago these clouds produced a severe weather outbreak Monday that brought damaging winds and hail to the region. Also visible is Tropical Storm Edouard in the Gulf of Mexico. The storm is expected to make landfall Tuesday morning.
GALVESTON, Texas - Tropical Storm Edouard hit the Texas Gulf coast east of Galveston on Tuesday with strong winds and rain but was expected to weaken as it makes its way inland during the day.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm made landfall over a stretch of coast east of Galveston and west of the Louisiana border, between High Island and Sabine Pass.
Maximum sustained winds were 65 mph, short of hurricane strength that starts at 74 mph.
It is the height of tourist season in Galveston, but tourism officials said many vacationers were planning to stay in hopes that the area isn't hit as hard as South Padre Island was by Hurricane Dolly on July 23.
Beth Bronson, visiting from Allen, said Monday she's determined not to have her trip ruined.
"We spend money to come here with our families. It's an inexpensive place to stay," said Bronson, 49. "If they were to say evacuate, then yeah we would do it. But otherwise no."
Still, officials in Texas and Louisiana were busy Monday preparing just in case Edouard intensified. It could reach near-hurricane strength as it churns in the warm Gulf of Mexico waters before making landfall.
A tropical storm warning was in effect from Grand Isle, La., westward to Sargent in Texas. A hurricane watch was in effect from west of Intracoastal City, La. to Sargent. The tropical storm warning and hurricane watch were discontinued for areas south of Sargent early Tuesday.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a disaster declaration for 17 Texas counties that could be in Edouard's path. The state activated a number of emergency teams, including calling up 1,200 Texas National Guard troops and six UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a statewide emergency. Cameron Parish told up to 3,000 residents to evacuate low-lying coastal areas prone to flooding. Vermilion Parish, also in western Louisiana, advised people in mobile homes or FEMA trailers along the coast to leave.
About 50 miles northwest of Galveston, Houston officials asked residents to safely store large, heavy items outside their homes to prevent flying debris.
Edouard was not forecast to bring the 100-mph winds to Galveston that punished another tourist hotspot in Texas, South Padre Island, when Hurricane Dolly tore off roofs and knocked down signs last month.
Since Dolly, South Padre has regained electric power but its four biggest full-service hotels remain closed as well as the convention center in the community about 260 miles down the coast from Galveston.
The Texas coast counts on tourism this time of year. About 50 million visitors to the Texas coast spent about $15 billion in 2006.
Edouard also forced oil and gas companies in the Gulf to evacuate workers from 23 production platforms and six rigs, according to the U.S. Minerals Management Service. The service said there are 717 manned platforms and 125 operating rigs in the Gulf.
Marathon Oil Corp. temporarily shut down a refinery that processes about 76,000 barrels of crude per day in Texas City, about 10 miles north of Galveston.
The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port temporarily suspended the offloading of tankers in the Gulf but said customers weren't affected because of pipeline deliveries.