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Tropical Storm Debby forms in Gulf of Mexico

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 9:33 PM EDT, Sat June 23, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Louisiana parish plans to place sand bags along levee
  • Debby is the fourth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season
  • Tropical storm warnings are in effect along the Louisiana coast
  • Evacuations ordered on Gulf oil platforms, rig

(CNN) -- Newly formed Tropical Storm Debby hovered in the central Gulf of Mexico late Saturday as coastal communities from Texas to Florida waited for it to make a decisive turn.

The storm, packing winds of 50 mph, was located about 220 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, according to the National Hurricane Center's 8 p.m. ET advisory.

Forecast models did not have a consensus on Debby's long-term track, and it was nearly stationary Saturday evening. Outer rain bands lashed portions of west-central and south Florida.

Nine oil and gas production platforms were evacuated, equivalent to 1.5% of the 596 manned platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, the federal government said Saturday. One of 70 rigs was evacuated.

The Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in Louisiana was in touch with parishes and the National Weather Service, said spokeswoman Veronica Mosgrove.

"Our concern is if it were to ... head west we could get some coastal flooding and high tides," she told CNN.

If needed, the office could coordinate shelter, transportation and assistance with sand bags.

Tropical Storm Debby has formed in Gulf

Plaquemines Parish on the southern tip of Louisiana planned to declare a state of emergency Sunday morning, said emergency preparedness director Guy Laigast.

The parish expects a slow rise of water pushed by the winds. Crews will place sand bags along a back levee in Myrtle Grove, Laigast said. Louisiana Highway 23, a main road in the parish, could be affected.

St. Mary Parish planned Monday to place warning signs at two communities built at sea level, said Duval Arthur, director of emergency preparedness. "We're anticipating a 3- to 4-foot high tide. Water would be over the road in those areas."

Charles Roeseler, meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Houston-Galveston office, said Debby "could really go in a number of directions" -- Florida, Louisiana and Texas. "It would be a welcome rain" in Texas, he said.

Tropical storm warnings were posted from the mouth of the Pearl River, west to Morgan City, Louisiana, but do not include New Orleans. Such warnings indicate tropical storm conditions are expected within 36 hours in the warning areas.

A slow northward movement was expected Sunday morning, followed by a gradual westward turn by late Sunday or early Monday. Some strengthening is expected over the next two days, the center said.

The hurricane center predicted a possible storm surge of up to 3 feet along the coast, with estimated rainfall amounts between 3 and 6 inches.

Debby's formation marks the first time in history that four named storms have formed before July 1, according to CNN Meteorologist Monica O'Connor.

First day of summer, and the Northeast sure feels it

CNN's Phil Gast contributed to this report.

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