Tropical Storm Edouard Makes Landfall on Upper Texas Coast

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Tropical Storm Edouard made landfall on the upper Texas coast early Tuesday morning, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

A tropical storm warning remained in effect from Grand Isle, La., westward to Sargent, Texas, while a hurricane watch was in effect from west of Intracoastal City, La., to Sargent.

Earlier Tuesday, the winds picked up and the surfs rose in Galveston as Edouard closed in on Texas' Gulf Coast.

Rain bands and tropical storm force winds were also spreading across coastal Louisiana, according to the National Hurricane Center.

But despite concerns the storm would pour cold water on Galveston's vacation season, some tourists seemed willing to stay and ride out the storm.

At 5 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Edouard's maximum sustained winds had strengthened to near 65 mph, with higher gusts. The storm's center was located about 50 miles southeast of Port Arthur, Texas, and 85 miles east of Galveston.

The storm was moving toward the west-northwest near 12 mph and forecasters said the storm could intensify and approach hurricane strength by time it reached the coast.

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Beth Bronson 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, who was vacationing from Allen. "If they were to say evacuate, then yeah we would do it. But otherwise no."

Tropical Storm Edouard was expected to come ashore midday Tuesday 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.

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.

Officials in both Texas and Louisiana on Monday prepared for Edouard's arrival.

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.

The hurricane center predicted Edouard's center could make landfall just east of Galveston, across the Bolivar Peninsula. No evacuations were ordered in Galveston but local officials in the storm-seasoned town were urging caution.

"We're used to this," Sherry Mallia said as her Galveston bridal registry and gift shop was being boarded up with plywood on Monday.

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

Galveston officials were hoping Edouard wouldn't derail its successful tourist season. They said many visitors were staying and riding out Edouard.

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 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.

"This is not the time of year for anyone along the Texas coast to be interrupted by these storms," said Dan Quandt, executive director of the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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.

Shell Oil Co. said Monday it evacuated 43 workers from Gulf operations but expected no effect on production. Apache Corp. evacuated about 110 workers from the Gulf, shutting about 7,800 barrels per day of oil output.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.