NEW ORLEANS – Tropical Storm Cindy (search) began moving ashore Tuesday night, pelting the Louisiana coast with sideways rain and intermittent squalls.
St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office spokesman Capt. Mike Sanders said the low-lying coastal parish had seen much worse, but residents were still keeping a watchful eye on the storm — as well as Tropical Storm Dennis (search), which was brewing in the Caribbean but would likely arrive in the Gulf of Mexico by the weekend.
"Our main concern with Cindy is that she'll come along the coastline, like it here, and stay awhile," Sanders said. "We like tourism, we know people enjoy it here, but in Cindy's case, we hope she just keeps on going."
Oil companies had evacuated their Gulf of Mexico (search) rigs while tourists and residents on the vulnerable Louisiana and Mississippi coasts were advised to head inland earlier Tuesday. Forecasters said the storm could bring up to 10 inches of rain.
Numerous flights in and out of the New Orleans airport were canceled and Amtrak suspended passenger rail service to and from the city until Wednesday afternoon.
At the Cajun Tide Beach Resort on the tiny Louisiana barrier island town of Grand Isle (search), owners Shirley Riche and David Ducote said they were beginning to see the wind pick up and mix with a little rain as the outer bands of Cindy began lashing the island, but it was all bearable.
"We're enjoying it. It's a misty rain, it's cool. It's actually really nice. We're outside cleaning fish, getting ready to cook some supper," Riche said.
Officials earlier ordered recreational vehicles on Grand Isle to leave so that Louisiana Highway 1, the only route off the island, would not be clogged with slow-moving traffic should a full-scale evacuation be necessary.
"We have just a small timetable here to work," said Grand Isle town clerk Ray Santiny. "It would be horrendous with all these campers on the highway to get our people out."
In Mississippi's coastal Hancock County, jail inmates filled sandbags for distribution to flood-prone areas, said Dee Lumpkin of the county's Emergency Operations Center.
Tropical Storms Cindy and Dennis are the third and fourth named storms of the Atlantic hurricane season. July 5 is the earliest date on record for four named storms, and worries about the already active season helped send oil prices climbing briefly past $60 a barrel Tuesday.
A survey of oil companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico found that 23 petroleum production platforms and six drilling rigs had been evacuated, interrupting more than 3 percent of the gulf's normal oil and natural gas production.
At 8 p.m. EDT, Cindy was centered 55 miles south-southwest of Grand Isle and was moving north-northeast at about 14 mph, with a gradual turn expected toward the northeast. Tropical storm-force wind and rain extended up to 105 miles to the east of its center.
Dennis was centered about 385 miles southeast of Haiti and moving west-northwest at about 16 mph. It was on track to reach Haiti on Wednesday and south Florida on Friday, said hurricane center meteorologist Trisha Wallace.
Dennis was moving toward the Gulf with winds of 40 mph, just above the 39 mph threshold for tropical storm status.