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Tropical Storm Claudette moves toward land
By Mark Babineck, Associated Press, 7/14/2003
SEADRIFT, Texas -- Residents along a 200-mile stretch of coastline braced for hurricane-force winds, torrential rain and pounding tides as Tropical Storm Claudette plodded toward land, heading north of where forecasters had anticipated.
The National Hurricane Center extended its warning north along the Texas coast, from the sparsely populated area around Baffin Bay, 30 miles south of Corpus Christi, to High Island, just east of Galveston and 75 miles south of Houston.
Forecasters believed Claudette could become a hurricane late Monday and expected the storm to turn west before arriving under the cover of darkness Wednesday morning.
Residents in low-lying areas of Texas' coast under the hurricane warning were asked to evacuate Monday evening, emergency management officials said.
"This is a minimal storm but you need to move inland to high ground," said Rick Perry, Brazoria County's emergency management coordinator.
Visitors were evacuated from state parks on the Texas coast and officials secured the South Texas Project nuclear plant, located about 80 miles southwest of Houston.
Tropical storm warnings stretched farther east to Intracoastal City, La.
In Louisiana, Claudette whipped up tides on the southwestern coast Monday, prompting evacuation of about 3,000 homes in Cameron Parish. Rodney Gilbeaux, whose house is 100 feet from the Gulf of Mexico, was packing up to leave Monday night, mindful of past storms.
"I don't think it will be too bad," Gilbeaux said. "But I lost nine family members in Hurricane Audrey so I don't take chances. I get out."
By Monday night, Claudette's center was about 230 miles east of Corpus Christi, with maximum sustained wind of 65 mph, 9 mph shy of hurricane strength. The National Hurricane Center said the crew of an offshore oil rig reported wind gusts reaching 85 mph, and oil and natural gas companies evacuated hundreds of workers from drilling and production rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.
Only about half the usual number of crabbers at Seadrift, on Guadalupe Bay, were at work Monday despite pleasant conditions, said Josephine London, 50.
"On Tuesday, I don't think they're going to go out," said London, whose wharfside barbecue stand is mere footsteps from the water.
T.J. Blevins, 18, who works at Seasonal Seafood, which buys the daily catch from crabbers for shipment around the country, had practical reasons to worry about how the Main Street harbor will fare in this town of 1,300.
"This is our jobs," Blevins said. "I hope we have jobs to come back to."
Weather service forecaster Jim Campbell said swells that measured as high as 10 feet 200 miles offshore could flood and erode beaches and create dangerous rip currents for surfers and swimmers.
Claudette is the third tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. It developed Tuesday in the Caribbean, brushing Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Mexico's Yucatan peninsula before entering the Gulf, where it has slowed and intensified.
Experts have predicted a busy Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1 and ends Nov. 30.