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Ike set to bypass Keys, but Gulf Coast worries

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

KEY WEST, Fla. -- Residents in the Florida Keys breathed a sigh of relief Monday as a fierce Hurricane Ike turned west on a path away from the low-lying island chain. But Gulf Coast states watched anxiously to see if the storm was gunning for them instead.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center warned that, after passing into the Gulf of Mexico sometime tonight, Ike could make landfall in the U.S. over the weekend near the Texas-Louisiana border, possibly not far from Houston.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry pre-declared disasters in 88 counties to aid storm preparation and put 7,500 National Guard members on standby.

In Louisiana, where thousands remain without power after Hurricane Gustav hit last week, Gov. Bobby Jindal urged residents to start stockpiling food, water, batteries and other supplies. The state also was readying shelters and making plans for trains, buses and planes in case a coastal evacuation is called later in the week.

"It is still too early to be evacuating certainly, but it is not too early to be making sure you've got food and water and batteries. It's not too early to be checking your car," Jindal said.

With the storm on a new track, Keys officials let an evacuation order expire Monday. By late afternoon Ike had weakened to a Category 1 storm, and a hurricane warning for the island chain was discontinued.

-- AP


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