With Tropical Storm Dolly barreling towards the Mexican and Texan coasts, residents and tourists in the Texas resort of South Padre Island began preparing for the worst. Meteorologists and local officials predicted on Monday that coastal flooding, sustained heavy winds and torrential rains could present a significant threat to life and property, and the South Texas town instituted voluntary evacuations.

Included in those heading off the barrier island are the 40 campers and staff of Camp Gan Israel, a Chabad-Lubavitch run sleepover camp for Jewish teenagers. Rabbi Asher Hecht, the camp’s director, said that he made the decision soon after the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla., issued a Hurricane Warning up and down the coast.

“We’re relocating to S. Antonio, the closest city, until the storm passes,” said Hecht, noting that concerned parents from across the country were calling in to check on their children. Although many island residents were choosing to stay, the local “police chief agreed that leaving was our best option. We’re not taking any chances with these kids.”

The camp planned to head off the island at 10 a.m., and drive the five hours to S. Antonio, where the staff of Chabad-Lubavitch of South Texas will offer help securing food for the children.

At 5 a.m. EDT, Dolly was centered 295 miles southeast of Brownsville, Texas, moving west at 15 m.p.h. Maximum sustained winds were near 60 m.p.h., while models predicted that the storm would become a Category 1 hurricane – with wind speeds in excess of 74 m.p.h. – sometime today. Landfall was expected on Wednesday.

“Increased winds are a concern,” said South Padre mayor Robert N. Pinkerton soon after declaring a state of disaster and activating the town’s Emergency Management Plan. “Anyone feeling uncomfortable with the expected storm is encouraged to relocate.”

Barry Goldsmith, the warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Brownsville, said that the coast should prepare for a three to four-foot storm surge in excess of high tide.

Goldsmith, who spoke to Hecht throughout the day Monday, emphasized that much could change before landfall.

“The forecast is always subject to change,” he explained. “But wind and rain Wednesday and Thursday will be bad.”

To contribute to an emergency fund at Camp Gan Israel, visit their Web site at www.cgispi.com/donate.