Tropical Storm Don Churns In Gulf

Storm Expected To Make Landfall Friday

HOUSTON - Tropical Storm Don churned in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday and took aim at the Texas coast.

At 10 p.m., the National Hurricane Center said Don continued to move west-northwest at 12 mph and was about 600 miles from the Houston area. It was located at 22.8 North and 87.1 West.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for Port Mansfield northward to west of San Luis Pass. A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours.

The maximum sustained winds were 40 mph with gusts up to 50 mph.

"We could see it arrive on the Texas coast Friday afternoon. The models continue to pull this system in our general direction, which are centered right around Corpus Christi into Houston. With a storm 500 miles out, predictions of a landfall can be off by 200 miles. The rain potential is 6 inches wherever it hits," KPRC Local 2 chief meteorologist Frank Billingsley said. "We are in that cone of uncertainty."

Billingsley said the water in the Gulf is 87 degrees and the system will probably become "a fairly healthy storm." However, he said it is not forecast to form into a hurricane, "but that can change so we have to keep an eye on it."

"From Brownsville to Galveston, Don is expected to make landfall late afternoon Friday or maybe Friday evening," he said. "The system has lots of big thunderstorms around it. Most of the computer models have clustered around Corpus Christi, but not all of them. Some of them have it going right on into Matagorda or Brazoria County. As it nears the coast, it can always make that northerly turn. Sixty to 70 mph winds are possible at landfall."

"If it goes too far south, it will be a rain-maker for Mexico, or if it moves farther north, (a rain-maker) for us," KPRC Local 2 meteorologist Mary Lee said.

"On Thursday, we're looking at coastal flood warnings into Friday with swells 5 to 8 feet," Billingsley said.

The Houston area has a 50 percent chance of rain on Friday, but that could change depending on the location of Don.

Harris County Office of Emergency Management officials said they are keeping a close eye on the storm and may activate the office on Thursday, if needed.

He hopes everyone has hurricane supplies and is prepared for minor inconveniences, such as lost power.

"Monitor what's going on and if you haven't prepared for a hurricane, we've been saying for months -- get a kit, be prepared. This will be a good drill for people to go through," Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said. "I hope everybody understands we are in hurricane season."

Galveston is also keeping a close eye on the storm. Even though Don is not expected to become a hurricane, the Island City wants to be prepared.

"Obviously, (Hurricane) Ike pointed out some weaknesses the city had," said Alicia Cahill with the city of Galveston.

Hurricane Ike, which made landfall in September 2008 in Galveston, was the last hurricane to strike the United States.

Ike knocked out power to some folks for weeks. To prevent such a widespread outage again, infrastructure has been strengthened and power poles replaced.

A lack of water also caused problems during Ike.

"We are rebuilding our waste-water treatment plant. We have brought online a pump station that was under construction during Ike," Cahill said.

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