Tropical Storm Fay parked in Gulf of Mexico

HOUSTON -- Tropical Storm Fay gathered strength Friday, shutting down schools and prompting evacuations, while the Texas coast braced for a weak but soggy hurricane that could dump 15 inches of rain.

By early Friday evening, Fay was about 105 miles south of Galveston and stationary. Sustained wind approached 60 mph and prompted a hurricane watch for a 150-mile stretch of coastline.

The watch means hurricane-force winds of 74 mph and high water are possible within the watch area.

There were no immediate reports of serious damage or flooding.

Some strengthening of the storm was expected over the next 24 hours with 4 to 8 inches of rain forecast, and as much as 15 inches closest to the center of the storm, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

The hurricane center predicted Friday that Fay would most likely make landfall in Freeport, about 55 miles south of Houston. Timing was difficult to forecast because of the storm's lack of movement.

Fay is the first tropical storm to threaten Texas since June 2001, when remnants of Tropical Storm Allison dumped up to 3 feet of rain on the Houston area, killing 22 and causing an estimated $5 billion in damage.

Schools in Galveston and High Island were closed Friday. Officials in Galveston County recommended people in low-lying coastline areas leave their homes. Most stayed put. In Texas, officials cannot order an evacuation.

"It's spinning out there and I just want to be prepared for it," Tony Deyo said Friday as he piled sandbags around his home at Crystal Beach, just across from Galveston on the Bolivar Peninsula.

"There's no beach left," he said. "We've been here three years and I really don't know what to expect."