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Gulf Coast Residents Brace for Storm

August 21, 1999

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) _ Coastal residents stocked up at gasoline pumps and hardware stores Saturday as Hurricane Bret threatened to end Texas’ decade-long string of hurricane-free summers.

A hurricane warning was posted Saturday for a 120-mile stretch of the Gulf Coast from La Pesca, Mexico, to Texas’ Baffin Bay, between Brownsville and Corpus Christi.

At a Shell station inland in Harlingen, Ruben Ramirez bought bottles of water he said would be his only preparation for the storm. ``Everything else I leave up to the Lord,″ he said.

No evacuations were ordered. However, surf was on the rise and Cameron County authorities warned that the causeway linking the popular recreational area of South Padre Island to the mainland would be closed late Saturday if wind reached gale force of about 39 mph as expected.

Cameron County parks were closed Saturday and emergency officials urged people to move high-profile recreational vehicles off the beach.

``We don’t want any surfers out there,″ county Emergency Management Coordinator Desi Najera said Saturday.

Rain was expected to move ashore during the night and 5 to 10 inches of rain was possible in south Texas, the National Weather Service said.

By midday Saturday, Bret was still centered about 235 miles southeast of Brownsville, the weather service said. It was moving westerly toward the Mexico coast, but even if it moved into Mexico rather than turning northward, it would still dump heavy rain along the lower Rio Grande Valley on the U.S.-Mexico border,.

Landfall was possible Sunday afternoon or evening, said meteorologist Joseph Wanja at the National Weather Service office in Brownsville .

County officials said about 6,000 sandbags had been filled as a precaution, and an additional 10,000 would be ordered for Sunday.

``We’re trying to get a jump on this thing because it’s so close to us, because it could increase its forward movement speed,″ Najera said.

Texas hasn’t been hit by a hurricane since Jerry killed three people in October 1989.

However, the state’s 367-mile coast has been struck by tropical storms since then, including Charley, which dumped 18 inches of rain that killed 19 people in August 1998.

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