Tropical Storm Edouard moving toward Texas

August 4, 2008 6:09:54 PM PDT
Beth Bronson said Monday she's determined not to have her trip ruined as the second severe storm in two weeks approached a Texas Gulf Coast vacation hotspot at the height of tourist season. Tropical Storm Edouard was expected to come ashore Tuesday morning anywhere from western Louisiana to Port O'Connor, Texas. But tourism officials in Galveston said many vacationers were planning to stay, hoping the area isn't hit as hard as South Padre Island was by Hurricane Dolly on July 23.

"We spend money to come here with our families. It's an inexpensive place to stay. If they were to say evacuate, then yeah we would do it. But otherwise no," said Bronson, 49, who was vacationing from Allen.

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.

Gov. Rof the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Forecasters say Edouard's center could make landfall near Galveston, which is in the peak of its tourist season, when the city's population of about 60,000 doubles. No evacuations were ordered and local officials in the storm-seasoned town were merely urging caution.

About 50 miles northwest, Houston officials asked residents to safely store large, heavy items outside their homes to prevent possible flying debris.

Galveston was hoping its successful tourist season wouldn't be derailed. Hotel occupancy rates and sales tax figures this summer are 10 to 15 percent higher than last year, the city's best for tourist-related income.

"Edouard is not going to have that large of an affect on tourism because it's not expected to cause (severe) damage," said Roshelle Gaskins, spokeswoman for the Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau. She added a lot of tourists were staying.

Oil and gas companies in the Gulf evacuated 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.

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 it evacuated 43 workers from some of its operations in the western Gulf. The company said no further evacuations were currently planned and it expected no impact on production.

Exxon Mobil Corp. said Monday afternoon it was preparing platforms and other structures for heavy wind and rain. But the company said no evacuations had taken place and production had not been affected.

A tropical storm warning was in effect from the mouth of the Mississippi River westward to Port O'Connor in Texas. A hurricane watch was in effect from west of Intracoastal City, La. to Port O'Connor.