(Reuters) - Tropical Storm Cindy churned slowly on Wednesday across the Gulf of Mexico toward an expected landing on the Texas-Louisiana border, after claiming the life of a vacationing child and threatening to bring flash floods from Texas to Florida.
The storm took the life of a 10-year-old boy who was struck and fatally injured by a log dislodged by a large wave while he stood near shore in the Gulf Coast community of Fort Morgan, Alabama, the Baldwin County Coroner said.
The boy, whose name was not immediately disclosed, was vacationing with and his family at the shore. No other casualties have been reported from the storm.
Cindy's wind speed remained at maximum sustained winds of 50 miles (85 km) per hour, down from 60 miles (95 km) per hour on Tuesday, and the storm center was located about 135 miles (215 km) south of Lake Charles, Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday in an afternoon update.
Two tornados were reported about 4 miles (6.4 km) northwest of Biloxi, Mississippi, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency and readied emergency vehicles and the Louisiana National Guard. As of noon, he said there were no reports of significant flooding or damage, but there were worries of tornadoes.
Alabama also declared a state of emergency, Texas increased its state of preparedness and Florida's governor warned residents in the northwest part of his state to stay alert for flooding and heavy rain.
The storm has had limited impact on oil production in the Gulf. About 17 percent of oil production in the Gulf was shut in and 40 platforms, or about 5 percent, were evacuated. Expected rains and wind could disrupt regional refineries that are home to some 2.3 million barrels per day of refining capacity.
Sabine Pilots, which guides ships in and out of the ports of Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Orange, Texas, suspended some operations on Wednesday, a spokesperson said.
The storm, moving northwest at nearly 9 miles (14 km) per hour, was expected to make landfall along the Texas-Louisiana border, near major Exxon Mobil Corp., Motiva Enterprises and Total SA refineries. Outages at refineries could drive up gasoline prices.
"The big story here is going to be a large area of rain across the southern portion of the U.S.," said Matt Rogers, president and co-founder of Commodity Weather Group.
Cindy could drop between 6 and 9 inches (15-23 cm) of rain and bring as much as 15 inches to some parts of southeastern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, and cause "life-threatening flash flooding," the NHC said.
The storm could cause a surge of up to 3 feet (0.91 meters) in isolated areas and possibly spawn tornados from southern Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, the NHC said.
The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the largest privately owned crude storage terminal in the United States, suspended vessel offloading operations ahead of the storm 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.
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.
New Orleans residents were told to expect about 6 inches of rain from the storm, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a press conference, about half the amount previously forecast.
There was little impact on air travel. At 4 p.m., New Orleans airport reported eight flights canceled and Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson had seven flights canceled, according to FlightAware, an airline tracking service.
There were reports of voluntary evacuations from some coastal communities in Texas, including the Bolivar Peninsula in Galveston County, near where the storm was expected to hit land.
The Tennessee Valley Authority said it was lowering some lake levels to add water storage capacity for rains from Cindy. TVA provides electricity to more than 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states, along with flood control for the Tennessee River system.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. Most meteorologists forecast this year will be more active than normal.
Reporting by Liz Hampton, Scott DiSavino, Bernie Woodall, Jon Herskovitz, Devika Krishna Kumar and Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Chris Reese and David Gregorio