(Reuters) - Tropical storm Cindy moved inland near the Louisiana-Texas border on Thursday morning, bringing heavy rainfall and life-threatening conditions over the northern Gulf Coast, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
The storm's first fatality was reported on Wednesday, when a 10-year-old boy was struck by a log that a large wave dislodged as he stood near the shore in Fort Morgan, Alabama, the Baldwin County coroner said.
Cindy was about 40 miles (65 km) northwest of Lake Charles, Louisiana, with maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour (65 km/h). It is expected to weaken into a tropical depression later Thursday morning, the Miami-based weather forecaster said.
"Life-threatening" flash flooding was possible as the storm could drop three to six inches (8-15 cm) of rain and as much as 12 inches in some parts of Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas, the NHC said. Up to eight inches of rainfall was expected in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida through Friday morning.
A storm could cause a surge of up to three feet (1 meter) in isolated areas from southeastern Louisiana to the western Florida Panhandle and possibly spawn tornados from the lower Mississippi and Tennessee Valley regions to the central Gulf Coast, the NHC said.
Two tornados were reported about four miles (6.4 km northwest of Biloxi, Mississippi. Two more were reported on the northwest coast of Florida, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the largest privately owned crude storage terminal in the United States, suspended vessel offloadings but expected no interruptions to deliveries from its hub in Clovelly, Louisiana.
Energy companies with operations in the Gulf of Mexico reported little impact on production. Shell suspended some well operations and Anadarko Petroleum, ENI and Enbridge said they had evacuated non-essential personnel.
Entergy Corp, the biggest power company in the Gulf Coast area, said just around 4,200 of its 2.9 million customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas were without power Thursday morning.
Offshore natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico declined from about 3 billion cubic feet per day earlier in the week to as low as 2.3 bcfd on Wednesday before rising to a forecast 2.4 bcfd on Thursday, according to Reuters data.
One billion cubic feet of gas is enough to supply about five million U.S. homes.
Energy analysts, however, noted the storm would likely have a bigger impact on gas demand than production.
"The tropical storm ... promises to bring rain and cooler temperatures, curbing demand in the region," Daniel Myers, market analyst at Gelber & Associates in Houston said in a note on Wednesday. [NGA/]
The Gulf of Mexico region is home to about 17 percent of U.S. crude and 5 percent of dry natural gas output, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by Larry King and Bernadette Baum)