Tropical Storm Debby likely will bring heightened winds and rain to the Baton Rouge metro area between Sunday and Wednesday as it passes about 80 miles south of the city Tuesday morning, meteorologists predicted Saturday.
Debby is not expected to reach hurricane strength, they said.
Though it was still too early Saturday to determine the exact path the Gulf of Mexico storm would follow, the majority of the National Weather Service's computer models showed Debby moving to the west with no immediate landfall, said weather service meteorologist Mike Hefferson.
On Saturday evening, Debby was about 220 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph.
Parishes along the Louisiana coastline - such as Plaquemine, Lafourche and St. Bernard - will bear the brunt of the storm's 55 mph winds, while the Baton Rouge area will largely be spared, forecasters said.
Debby is expected to bring up to 6 inches of rain along the coast, with isolated amounts of 10 inches, according to the storm forecast.
Baton Rouge, however, probably would see only about a quarter of an inch of rain, Hefferson said.
But Baton Rouge area public officials cautioned Saturday that storm tracks and intensities can change suddenly, so area residents still must prepare for a worst-case scenario by filling vehicles with fuel and stocking up on flashlights, batteries, canned food, medications and drinking water.
"Don't get in a comfort zone," said Mayor-President Kip Holden. "Hurricane Gustav wasn't supposed to hit Baton Rouge, but lo and behold, we had 90 mile per hour winds at the airport. Don't relax and take it for granted. Make sure you have a family disaster plan."
Holden said residents need to contact any relatives or neighbors who are elderly or who rely on daily medications to make sure they are prepared.
The Mayor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness was not fully activated but rather "standing by" Saturday night, said spokeswoman JoAnne Moreau.
"We're in a hurry-up-and-wait kind of mode," Moreau said, adding that if the storm's path changes to pose a greater threat to Baton Rouge, her office would kick into gear.
A tropical storm warning has been issued for part of the Louisiana coast.
Officials there have been monitoring the weather closely for the last several days.
Some low-lying coastal areas could flood easily in rough weather.
"We've already seen higher tides than usual," said Angela Rains, manager of the Terrebonne Levee District.
The American Red Cross is prepared to respond to anywhere that experiences flooding or other damage, said spokeswoman Nancy Malone.
Debby forced the suspension of 8 percent of the region's oil and gas production.
The federal government reported Saturday that nine production platforms and one drilling rig were evacuated because of Debby's track.
The suspended crude production amounts to about 2 percent of U.S. production and about 0.1 percent of global production.
The reduced production is not expected to affect oil prices unless the storm strengthens and forces more production platforms to close.
Anadarko Petroleum removed all non-essential personnel and expects to close four facilities in the central and eastern Gulf by Saturday. Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and Marathon Oil reported nonessential personnel were being evacuated but production was not being affected. ExxonMobil reported that its operations were unaffected.
The arrival of Debby marked the first time four tropical storms have been recorded before July 1 during the Atlantic hurricane season since record-keeping began in 1851.
Alberto was the first storm this year. It formed off the South Carolina coast on May 19, almost two weeks before the hurricane season officially began June 1.
The next system will be named Ernesto.
In the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, hurricane season lasts from June through November.
For more information, visit the following Internet websites, which will be updated continuously:
- The National Hurricane Center:
- The Advocate's Hurricane Tracking Page:
- The Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness:
- The Mayor's Office of Homeland Security & Emergency:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.