A tropical depression in the eastern Gulf of Mexico is expected to wash ashore tomorrow on the Louisiana coast, where Governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The system, with maximum sustained winds of 30 miles (45 kilometers) per hour, was located about 190 miles south of Pensacola, Florida, and was moving northwest at 12 mph, a center reported just before 11 a.m. Miami time.
It may still strengthen to tropical storm status, which requires winds of at least 39 mph, at which point the system would be named by the hurricane center.
“Residents and visitors should not panic,” according to a forecast by Kristina Pydynowski, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. “Instead of intensifying into a destructive hurricane, the depression will remain a nuisance system.”
The storm is forecast to push seas to about 12 feet in the area where BP Plc is drilling a relief well to permanently plug the source of the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, according to the National Weather Service in Slidell, Louisiana. Work on the well was stopped yesterday.
A tropical storm warning extends from Destin, Florida, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana, including Lake Pontchartrain and New Orleans, according to the hurricane center. As much as 8 inches of rain is possible in southern Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle through the rest of the week.
The storm’s surge is expected to be as much as 3 feet above normal along the coast and just east of where it goes ashore, the hurricane center said.
Jindal said yesterday in a statement posted on the state’s website that the emergency declaration was needed “given the threatened tropical storm conditions and complicating factors created by the oil spill.”
ERA Helicopters LLC reported today it has evacuated an unspecified number of oil and gas platforms in the storm’s path. Operations are normal at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, where officials are watching the system, said Barb Hestermann, a spokeswoman.
The hurricane center is also tracking two other systems. One, in the central Atlantic, has been given a 70 percent chance of organizing into a cyclone in the next two days, and the other off northern South America has a 10 percent chance. A cyclone is a rotating weather system and includes depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes.