Tracking the spill: Tropical storm forecasted to miss oil

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The National Hurricane Center projects that Tropical Storm Alex will steer south and west of the BP oil spill.

The storm, which dumped heavy rain over Belize, is projected to hit Mexico's Gulf Coast south of Brownsville, Texas, later this week.

Forecasters, however, warned that hurricanes can be unpredictable. Federal, state and local officials are devising plans for evacuating residents, dismantling the oil-recovery operation and securing heavy equipment and ships should a storm approach.

"A hurricane would present a major challenge to the Gulf disaster recovery and management efforts,” said Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Meanwhile, Mississippi reported tar balls washing ashore at four points near Pasagoula over the weekend. Crews moved in quickly to clean up the sand. No beaches are closed, although several fishing areas are off limits for now, according to www.gulfcoast.org.

The Alabama Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau reported "significant oiling" at Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. The beaches are open but "swimming is not advised."

More than 70% of the Louisiana Gulf Coast is unaffected by the oil spill and remains open for commercial and recreational fishing, according to the Cajun Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau.

The oil spill’s biggest impact in Louisiana extends from the mouth of the Mississippi River going east. Grand Isle has closed its public beach.

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