GALVESTON, Texas &
Tropical Storm Edouard hit the Texas Gulf coast east of Galveston today with strong winds and heavy rain, but did little more than soak the travelers who came to relax on the tourist town's beaches.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm was starting to weaken as it headed inland toward central Texas, with top sustained winds easing to near 60 mph from 65 mph.
The storm made landfall east of Galveston and west of the Louisiana border, between the small coastal town of High Island and Sabine Pass. Though forecasters had feared it could become a hurricane, its winds never reached hurricane strength of 74 mph.
In Galveston, a few surfers were in the water and some people were riding bikes at the beach as the heavy rains approached.
"We are just out here enjoying it, trying to feel that good breeze that's coming in," said Robert Lemon, 45, of Sweeny, who said he was hoping the storm passed quickly so he could do some fishing.
Rain blew horizontally on Bolivar Peninsula, a thin strip of land northeast of Galveston that separates Galveston Bay from the Gulf of Mexico. The area is dotted with beach houses and patches of trees.
Some homes and businesses in the small peninsula town of Crystal Beach were boarded up early today and some street lights were out, but there were no apparent signs of serious damage.
In Gilchrist, another peninsula community, a handful of emergency workers sat at the fire station amid emergency supplies, bottled water and air mattresses. But none of the 700 or so residents had called for help.
"We've fared this pretty well, thank God. We've had a lot worse," said April Rosenthal, the town's emergency medical administrator.
Local power was knocked out for about 90 minutes, she said, but there was no other major damage reported.
Houston's two major airports, Hobby and Bush International, were operating this morning, though flights were delayed anywhere from 30 minutes to five hours.
"Most of the big planes are leaving," said Marlene McClinton, a spokeswoman for the Houston Airport System. "But people really need to check with their carriers."
The storm hit at the height of tourist season in Galveston, but tourism officials said many vacationers had planned to stay in hopes that the area would not be hit as hard as South Padre Island was by Hurricane Dolly on July 23.
Galveston, scene of a 1900 hurricane that killed about 8,000 people, did not order any evacuations ahead of Edouard.
Still, officials in Texas and Louisiana had prepared in advance in case of a hurricane.
Both states mobilized emergency teams, including 1,200 Texas National Guard troops. Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a disaster declaration for 17 Texas counties and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a statewide emergency.
Edouard skirted the Louisiana coast on its way to Texas, raising tides and pushing water into bayous and some low-lying yards south of New Orleans in the Terrebonne Parish communities of Dulac and Chauvin.
Terrebonne emergency preparedness director Jerry Richard said only minor damage was reported and no homes were flooded.
In Cameron Parish, bordering Texas, emergency management officials reported some power lines down and minor damage.
Residents of low-lying areas south of the Intracoastal Waterway in Cameron were ordered to evacuate Monday but may be able to return later today. Parish officials have been quick to order evacuations ahead of storms since Hurricane Audrey in 1957 killed about 500 people in Cameron.
Edouard did not bring the 100-mph winds that punished the Texas tourist hotspot of South Padre Island when Hurricane Dolly tore off roofs and knocked down signs last month.
The Texas coast counts on tourism this time of year. About 50 million visitors to the Texas coast spent about $15 billion in 2006.
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.
Edouard did force 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.
Associated Press Writers John Porretto and Ana Ley in Houston, Regina L. Burns and Jamie Stengle in Dallas, Christopher Sherman in McAllen and Mary Foster in New Orleans contributed to this report.
Edouard hits Texas
GALVESTON, Texas &