Hurricane watch posted for TX coast

Tropical Storm Cristobal moves further off the Atlantic coast while a strengthening Tropical Storm Dolly heads toward the Texas - Mexico border

BY VICKI DESORMIER | July 20, 2008

A hurricane watch was issued for the southern Texas coast Monday morning as Tropical Storm Dolly began to strengthen in the Gulf of Mexico. The watch was posted from Brownsville north to Port O'Connor.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm could be approaching the Texas coast by Wednesday.

Meanwhile the first tropical storm to impact the U.S. Atlantic seaboard was moving off the Atlantic coast Monday afternoon and forecasters were warily watching a new tropical wave coming off the African coast.

At 11 AM (EDT) Tropical Storm Cristobal was also getting stronger but moving a little further off the coast. It is expected to hug the Atlantic coast as it moves north.

The storm is expected to slowly move along the North Carolina coast before slowly going out to sea. The maximum sustained winds were at 55 MPH with higher gusts.

Still, emergency managers and faith based relief organizations are standing at the ready, just in case.

"You can never tell with a tropical system," said Charles Moeller, president of the North Carolina Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). "One minute it seems like nothing and then you turn around and it's a big one. You always have to be prepared."

Moeller said the VOAD members each have their own assignment when a storm hits.

The members are in a "wait and watch" mode right now, he said. There's nothing to do until the storm strengthens or moves toward land, but the leaders have all been briefed and are waiting for the call to come to spring into action.

Mark Willis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Newport, NC, said the current storm is expected to bring rain and wind to the North Carolina coast for at least two days, but the slow moving storm has maximum sustained winds of only 45 miles per hour. While that could cause some minor damage and some coastal erosion, he said, it is not likely to pack enough wallop to cause any widespread damage.

Willis said the tropical storm is likely to hug the coast for a few days, causing heavy rains and possibly some minor flooding in coastal areas.

"We're not predicting that this system will strike land anywhere in the United States," he said.

Moeller said the members of the North Carolina VOAD are not expecting to have to work with this particular storm, but they are making sure things are in order. He said they have been in contact with the North Carolina Department of Emergency Management so that they are ready and able to go out as soon as they are needed.

Members, including the North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Mennonite Disaster Service, the Disciples of Christ, the North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church, the Carolina Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the Salvation Army, the United Way and North Carolina Interfaith are ready with programs including food canteens, flood clean up teams, chain saw brigades and crisis teams ready to help with things like insurance and other disaster management.

"We have no problems being ready to hit the ground running," Moeller said.

Steve Halstead of the North Carolina Council of Churches, which helps coordinate North Carolina Interfaith, said volunteers with the interfaith relief organization have worked with both North Carolina VOAD and the Department of Emergency Management in order to be prepared if a disaster strikes. Each group has its own assignments and they are ready to carry those out quickly when the call comes.

Meanwhile Tropical Storm Dolly was heading for the Yucatan Peninsula Sunday night but is expected to emerge into the Gulf of Mexico later Monday when it is predicted to strengthen into a hurricane and head toward the Mexico/Texas border near Brownsville.

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