Disaster Declaration Issued for Texas Coast Ahead of Ike

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Governor Rick Perry declared disasters in 88 Texas counties today to allow officials there to begin preparing for Hurricane Ike.  That's as the storm whistles toward the Gulf of Mexico.

Forecasters say it could enter the gulf by tomorrow night.  Perry placed up to 7,500 National Guardsmen and 19 aerial resources on standby. He also urged coastal residents heed warnings from local officials.  The declaration comes a week after a similar declaration last week in advance of Hurricane Gustav.

National Hurricane Center forecasters warn that Ike could make landfall in the United States over the weekend near the Texas-Louisiana border, possibly not far from Houston.

While it's now a Category 1 hurricane, it's expected to strengthen once it reaches the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico.