Dallas County watching Gustav

Published 7:01 pm Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Dallas County Emergency Management Agency is monitoring two storms in the Atlantic.

The agency will have a briefing at 2 p.m. today with the National Weather Service and its responding agencies, said Pam Cook, director of Dallas County EMA.

Hurricane Gustav remains several days away and no plans are set in stone. No residents along the U.S. Gulf Coast have begun to evacuate.

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Projections showed the storm arriving early next week as a Category 3 storm with winds of 111 mph or greater, anywhere from the Florida Panhandle to eastern Texas. Forecasts several days out are tentative because the storm could change course and strength.

“The storm has slowed down and shifted more to the left,” said Cook late Thursday afternoon, “so landfall appears to be in the Louisiana-Texas area. We are still in the cone of uncertainty.”

Thursday morning, Gov. Bob Riley spoke to Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator David Paulison, who is in New Orleans. A spokesman for the governor said Paulison assured Riley the government is taking steps to protect lives and property in the Gulf Coast region, should Gustav come on shore as a major hurricane.

Riley directed Alabama two-year colleges designated as hurricane shelters to begin preparations to accommodate evacuees should authorities order an evacuation.

Additionally, the governor placed 3,000 members of the Alabama National Guard on alert and directed the Alabama Department of Transportation to have its staff ready to reverse lanes of traffic on I-65, should it become necessary. The state Department of Public Safety also is prepared to assist if evacuations become necessary, the spokesman said.

Governors in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas pre-declared states of emergency to build a foundation for federal assistance. Federal officials said resources and people to provide post-storm aid poured into the Gulf Coast states from other portions of the country Thursday.

The American Red Cross checked on shelters, deployed dozens of trucks that could deliver food and shipped supplies of cots, blankets and hygiene kits into the region.

Tropical Storm Hanna could strengthen into a hurricane by Labor Day, but it likely wouldn’t threaten the U.S. coast until later next week, if at all.

Wind shear had “taken its toll on Hanna,” and the fledgling storm with 40 mph winds was “struggling,” according to an evening update from the National Hurricane Center in West Miami-Dade County.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.