NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A low pressure system over the Gulf of Mexico could become a tropical depression by the weekend, forecasters said Thursday, bringing the possibility of flash floods and stormy seas but also a shot at some drought relief for southeast Texas and the likely dampening of a stubborn marsh hire that has blanketed the New Orleans area with smoke for days.
Forecasters stressed it was too early to say how much benefit and how many problems could result. "There's still a lot of uncertainty," said Christopher Bannan, meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Slidell, near New Orleans.
However, Bannon was confident that enough rain would fall to affect the wildfire that has been burning for more than a week in a marshy area of New Orleans accessible only by air. "It should help and it should help a lot," Bannan said.
NWS meteorologist Donald Jones in Lake Charles, La., said Texas should get some benefit from the system, which was already spawning showers off the southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas coast. How much of a benefit would depend on the direction of the system, how much it develops and whether it lingers in the area into next week as some computer models suggest.
"That's still kind of up in the air right now," Jones said.
Along with the benefits were the possible problems: Small craft warnings were issued Thursday from northwest Florida to Texas. Seas of at least one to two feet above normal were in the forecasts. Flash flood watches were issued in southeastern Louisiana and south Mississippi.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates major flood control structures at New Orleans, was monitoring developments. "At this time, we do not anticipate closing any of our structures," spokesman Ricky Boyett said in an email. "However, we will continue to monitor the conditions in the Gulf very closely and are making all of the necessary preparations in the event that these conditions change."
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