From Staff and wire reports

AUSTIN (AP) — As Hurricane Ike whisked toward the Gulf of Mexico, Gov. Rick Perry issued disaster declarations Monday for 88 Texas counties, including Navarro County, allowing officials to initiate preparedness efforts.

“While Hurricane Gustav is still fresh on the minds of coastal residents, we must now turn our attention to Hurricane Ike as it poses a potential threat to the Texas coast,” said Perry, who also requested a presidential disaster declaration for the 88 counties. “Hurricanes by their nature are unpredictable, and although we cannot predict to a certainty where Ike will make landfall, we continue to monitor this storm and prepare for any potential impact on our communities.”

Up to 7,500 National Guard members and 19 aerial resources were on standby, Perry’s office said.

Perry urged coastal residents to heed warnings from local officials.

The state also began holding conference call briefings with local emergency planners from across the state, sharing information and preparing to dispatch resources where needed in the event of a strike along the Texas coast.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center warned that, after passing into the Gulf of Mexico sometime Tuesday night, Ike could make landfall in the U.S. over the weekend near the Texas-Louisiana border, possibly not far from Houston. While it’s now a Category 1 hurricane, it is expected to strengthen once it reaches the gulf’s warmer waters.

In Louisiana, where thousands remain without power after Hurricane Gustav hit last week, Gov. Bobby Jindal urged residents to start stockpiling food, water, batteries and other supplies. The state also was readying shelters and making plans for trains, buses and planes in case a coastal evacuation is called later in the week.

Counties covered by the proclamation are:

Anderson, Angelina, Aransas, Archer, Austin, Bee, Bell, Bexar, Bowie, Brazoria, Brazos, Brooks, Calhoun, Cameron, Cass, Chambers, Cherokee, Collin, Colorado, Comal, Dallas, Denton, DeWitt, Ellis, El Paso, Fort Bend, Franklin, Galveston, Goliad, Grayson, Gregg, Hardin, Harris, Harrison, Henderson, Hidalgo, Hill, Hopkins, Hunt, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Jim Hogg, Jim Wells, Kaufman, Kenedy, Kleberg, Lamar, Lavaca, Liberty, Lubbock, Matagorda, McLennan, Montgomery, Nacogdoches, Navarro, Newton, Nueces, Orange, Panola, Parker, Polk, Potter, Randall, Refugio, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, San Patricio, Shelby, Smith, Starr, Tarrant, Titus, Tom Green, Travis, Trinity, Tyler, Van Zandt, Victoria, Waller, Walker, Webb, Wharton, Willacy, Williamson, Wise and Wood

In addition to the military forces, the following precautions have been initiated:

• Texas Task Force 1 and Texas Task Force 2 are on standby;

• Dynamic message signs are being used to urge residents along the coast to fuel up their vehicles;

• Fuel monitors are working to ensure adequate fuel supplies along potential evacuation routes and monitoring demand increases;

• Texas is coordinating with Oklahoma, which is prepared to shelter 12,500 medical special needs patients from Texas if necessary.

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