Tropical storm is heading toward Lousiana

A weather system showed that a tropical storm appeared to be heading toward Louisiana. Shell Oil announced evacuation plans for hundreds of staff from its rigs in the region.

The National Weather Service in its hazardous weather outlook said the low-pressure area could affect southeast Louisiana and south Mississippi Friday night or Saturday and that it would have the potential to become a subtropical or tropical storm. Higher-than-normal tides and coastal flooding were possible Friday into Saturday, the report read.

Models showed possible tracks across the Gulf Coast, with Louisiana and the New Orleans area in the middle of the extreme ends of those tracks, said meteorologist Phil Grigsby.

State and local officials planned to speak throughout the day and continue monitoring weather conditions, a spokeswoman for Louisiana's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness said. The state had not activated its emergency operations center, as of late morning.

Shell Oil Co. said it planned to evacuate about 700 staff deemed not essential to drilling and production in the Gulf of Mexico by the end of the day Wednesday.

In Plaquemines Parish, portions of which were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, nervous residents were calling local officials for any news.

Since Katrina, "people are gun-shy, and they're going to call, which is good," said Phillip Truxillo, Plaquemines' emergency management director. "They're supposed to be monitoring and watching."

If a tropical storm threatened, residents in federally issued trailers would be evacuated to an auditorium and high school, Truxillo said. On Wednesday, parish workers were checking to see that drains were clear of debris and picking up trash or other loose debris, he said.

An emergency management official in St. Bernard Parish, which was virtually wiped out by Katrina, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. A New Orleans city spokeswoman also did not immediately respond to a message.

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