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Edouard hits Texas coast, then starts to weaken
Tropical Weather TX 5537946
Ashley Ellen, 22, from Houston, walks by a commemorative sculpture for the 8,000 who were killed by a 1900 hurricane, along the seawall in Galveston, Texas, as rain from Tropical Storm Edouard pelts her, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008. - photo by Associated Press
    GALVESTON, Texas — Tropical Storm Edouard hit the Texas Gulf coast east of Galveston on Tuesday 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 storm’s center made landfall east of Galveston and west of the Louisiana border, between the small coastal town of High Island and Sabine Pass, and was weakening as it headed inland.
    Though forecasters had feared it could become a hurricane and both Texas and Louisiana had made emergency preparations, winds never reached hurricane strength of 74 mph. No major damage was reported.
    The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm was expected to drop in strength by early Wednesday to a tropical depression, meaning top sustained winds of less than 39 mph. At 2 p.m. EDT, the storm’s center was about 35 miles east of Houston and heading slowly west-northwest toward central Texas. Wind speeds had dropped from near 65 mph when it hit land to about 50 mph.
    In Galveston, a few surfers were in the water and some people were riding bikes at the beach as the 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.
    On Bolivar Peninsula, a thin strip of land northeast of Galveston that separates Galveston Bay from the Gulf of Mexico, emergency workers were ready but had little to do. A few sat at the Gilchrist 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.
    Edouard skirted the Louisiana coast on its way to Texas, raising tides and pushing water into bayous and yards. Residents of low-lying areas south of the Intracoastal Waterway in Cameron were ordered to evacuate Monday but were expected to be able to return later Tuesday. Parish officials have been quick to order evacuations ahead of storms since Hurricane Audrey in 1957 killed about 500 people in Cameron.
    CenterPoint Energy, which serves 2 million customers, said very few customers were without electricity.
    ‘‘This is just like any other thunderstorm,’’ said Leticia Lowe, a spokeswoman for the company.
    Houston’s two major airports, Hobby and Bush International, were operating Tuesday morning, though flights were delayed anywhere from 30 minutes to five hours.
    The storm hit at the height of tourist season in Galveston, but 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 July 23.
    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 cut production about 6 percent from the Gulf’s normal daily oil output, the U.S. Mineral Management Service said. Natural gas production was cut by about 12 percent.
    Oil and gas companies evacuated 154 of the 717 manned platforms and nine of the 125 exploratory rigs in the Gulf.
    ——
    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.

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