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Tropical Storm Edouard to strengthen to near-hurricane before hitting land

Tropical Storm Edouard churned west in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday night and was expected to strengthen to a near-hurricane before making landfall somewhere in Texas on Tuesday.

The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for the coasts of western Louisiana and eastern Texas late Sunday, meaning hurricane conditions were possible in the next 24 hours from Intracoastal City, Louisiana to Port O'Connor, Texas.

Edouard, packing 50-mph (80-kph) maximum sustained winds, is the fifth tropical storm of the 2008 hurricane season. At 10 p.m. CDT, its center was located about 80 miles (130 kilometers) east-southeast off the mouth of the Mississippi River and about 390 miles (630 kilometers) east of Galveston, Texas.

It was moving west at 5 mph (8 kph) and was expected to strengthen before making landfall Tuesday morning in Texas. Forecasters said the warm waters of the Gulf provided the right conditions for the storm to intensify and approach hurricane strength with winds of 75 mph (120 kph) or more.

Southeastern Texans prepared for Edouard's impact while the victims farther down the Texas coast continued cleaning up the damage from Hurricane Dolly, which hit last month.

Krista Piferrer, a spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, said Sunday that state emergency management officials were getting updates through conference calls with the National Weather Service.

Rainfall of 1 inch to 2 inches (2.54 centimeters to 5.08 centimeters) was expected in coastal Louisiana. About 2 inches to 4 inches (5.08 centimeters to 10.16 centimeters) was possible in southeast Texas, with isolated amounts up to 6 inches (15.24 centimeters). Tides of 2 to 4 feet (0.61 meters to 1.22 meters) above normal levels were expected in parts of the watch area.

State emergency officials did not immediately return calls seeking details on emergency plans.

Many of the Gulf's offshore oil and natural gas drilling platforms sit in the storm's path.

Shell Oil Co. had not made any operational changes Sunday afternoon, but company officials were watching the storm closely, spokesman Shawn Wiggins said.

ExxonMobil Corp. had not evacuated any workers or cut production by Sunday evening, but the company was preparing its platforms for heavy wind and rain and considering whether to evacuate some workers, spokeswoman Margaret Ross said in an e-mail statement.