Hurricane Ike gains strength over Gulf

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Hurricane Ike, currently a Category 2 storm, is expected to increase to a Category 3 over the next day or two as it crosses the Gulf of Mexico toward Texas.

The National Hurricane Center reported this morning that the center of Ike was about 575 miles east of Brownsville, Texas, and about 270 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

A tropical storm warning is in effect from the Mississippi-Alabama border westward to east of Cameron, La. A hurricane watch is in effect from Cameron, La., west to Port Mansfield, Texas. Hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area by late Friday.

Ike is moving toward the west-northwest near 10 mph. A general west-northwest motion over the central and western Gulf of Mexico is expected today and Friday. On this track, the center will be approaching the northwestern Gulf of Mexico late Friday.

Maximum sustained winds are near 100 mph with higher gusts. Hurricane-force winds extend outward to 115 miles from the center, and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 225 miles.

Coastal storm-surge flooding of 3 to 5 feet above normal tide levels can be expected within the tropical storm warning area, the National Hurricane Center reports.

Above-normal tides of 2 to 4 feet are expected elsewhere along much of the northern Gulf Coast during the next day or so, increasing along the western Gulf as Ike approaches, forecasters predict.

The Coast Guard has set up a Web site for information on Hurricane Ike.

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