<!-- IMAGE -->
States of emergency are in effect for several southern U.S. states as Tropical Storm Ida swirls toward the U.S. Gulf Coast, where it is expected to make landfall within hours.
Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi issued the emergency declarations as Ida took aim at the U.S. mainland. Storm warnings are posted from parts of Louisiana, including the New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain areas, to the Aucilla River in Florida.
As Ida churned up high seas, two oil workers were plucked from a rig about 128 kilometers south of New Orleans. Rain has been falling along the coast, where many schools are closed as the storm nears land.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said in its latest report that Ida was about 60 kilometers east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, moving north at 28 kilometers per hour.
Forecasters also said that while Ida had wind speeds of 110 kilometers per hour, it was expected to weaken.
Forecasters, however, have warned that the tropical storm could dump several centimeters of rain in some areas.
At its earlier hurricane strength, Ida triggered floods and mudslides that killed at least 130 people in El Salvador and forced thousands from their homes.
Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes has declared a national emergency in the wake of the storm. The town of Verapaz was one of the hardest hit areas, where streets were covered in mud.
Ida hit Nicaragua's Caribbean coast Thursday as a low-level hurricane, destroying homes and forcing hundreds of people to evacuate.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.