Matamoros, Mexico (AFP) July 1, 2010
Hurricane Alex, the first of the Atlantic season, battered northeastern Mexico Thursday with torrential rain and violent winds, disrupting oil clean-up operations in the Gulf of Mexico.
Alex roared ashore late Wednesday as a Category Two storm with its eye 35 miles (56 kilometers) north of La Pesca, Mexico and 110 miles south of Brownsville, Texas, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.
About four hours later the center said that Alex weakened to a Category One storm on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale.
The storm, which at 0900 GMT was packing still dangerous winds of 80 miles (130 kilometers) per hour, was expected further weaken as it moved westward over Mexico.
Mexican officials reported no immediate casualties although at least 11 people were killed over the weekend when the storm passed through Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador.
The Mexican navy kept some 2,000 sailors at their barracks in Tamaulipas, while around 17,000 people were evacuated from the coast, including all the inhabitants of the fishing town of La Carbonera where wood homes are common.
Half of the Mexican border city of Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas, was flooded and telecommunications were affected sporadically, officials said.
Several car accidents were reported during stormy conditions in Nuevo Leon.
Power lines were down in South Padre Island, located in far southeastern Texas north of Matamoros. Authorities also closed the bridge connecting the island to the mainland due to high winds.
Tornados were reported touching down in southern Texas, though no casualties were announced.
Alex has already disrupted clean-up operations for the massive oil spill off the coast of Louisiana.
The storm traveled far southwest of the area worst hit by the massive BP oil spill -- the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida -- but its strong winds whipped up choppy waves, forcing a halt in skimming operations.
Large waves also pushed more of the huge slick onto fragile shorelines.
US officials said the storm interrupted 26.3 percent of crude oil production in the Gulf on Wednesday.
At 0900 GMT Alex was moving towards the west at around 12 miles (19 kilometers) an hour. "Alex is expected to weaken to a Tropical Storm later (Thursday) and dissipate over Mexico by Friday," the hurricane center said.
Alex's winds extended outward up to 25 miles (35 kilometers) from the eye, and tropical storm force winds extended out to 205 miles (335 kilometers), well into Texas.
The storm was forecast to dump between six and 12 inches (15-30 centimeters) of rain over northeastern Mexico and southern Texas, with isolated maximums of 20 inches (51 centimeters).
"These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mud slides," the Miami-based hurricane center said.
Mexico's Meteorological Service warned that the hurricane would produce "intense and torrential rain, strong winds and an elevated surge" through Friday across a swath of land that includes five northeastern Mexican states.
In Matamoros, with a population 450,000 and located on the US border, rivers of rain water rushed down empty downtown streets. Power had not been disrupted, but radio and telephone communication was spotty, officials said.
Alex is the first Atlantic hurricane to form in June since 1995, according to the National Hurricane Center.
US President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Texas late Tuesday to help with any storm damage.
earlier related report
The large cyclone gained strength throughout the day as it churned across the Gulf of Mexico, where oil clean-up operations to the north of the storm track were disrupted due to rough weather.
It hit the Mexican coast at 0200 GMT Thursday about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of the town of La Pesca, with winds up to 105 miles (169 kilometers) per hour.
Hurricane Alex strengthens to Category Two
Hurricane Alex rose one notch on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale late Wednesday, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said, after Mexico evacuated hundreds of people from fishing towns south of the US border.
Alex has already disrupted oil clean-up operations off the coast of Lousiana, and US President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Texas late Tuesday.
Giant waves and strong winds were expected around the US-Mexico border as the storm churned westwards through the Gulf of Mexico, packing winds near 100 miles (160 kilometers) per hour, according to the latest NHC report.
Obama requested federal aid for relief operations after a hurricane warning was issued for southeast Texas and northeast Mexico.
Texas Governor Rick Perry issued his own state disaster proclamation for 19 counties.
Mexican authorities have already reported one storm-related death.
They evacuated some 2,000 inhabitants near the beach in the town of La Carbonera, close to where the storm was expected to hit overnight Wednesday.
Further north in the city of Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas, the edge of the storm already brought torrential rain which flooded streets.
Alex was some 80 miles (130 kilometers) northeast of La Pesca, Mexico and 105 miles (170 kilometers) south southeast of Brownsville, Texas, at 2100 GMT, according to the NHC.
The storm was well southwest of the area worst hit by the massive BP oil spill -- the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida -- though its strong winds have already caused problems for the cleanup effort.
It was not forecast to turn towards the spill, but severe winds have churned up waves that halted some cleanup operations and threatened to push more of the huge slick onto shore.
The NHC has warned that heavy rains could cause life-threatening flash floods, mud slides, and that ocean water could penetrate inland for several miles.
Tornadoes were possible over southern Texas on Wednesday, the NHC added.
Alex is the first Atlantic hurricane to form this early, in June, since 1995, according to the NHC.
Alex has already killed at least 10 people in Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador over the weekend.
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New Orleans, Louisiana (AFP) June 30, 2010
Hurricane Alex disrupted the BP oil spill clean-up effort in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday as the storm gathered strength and was expected to make landfall. US President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Texas as Alex strengthened into the first Atlantic hurricane of the season late Tuesday. Alex was far from the epicenter of the clean-up operation off the Louisiana coast, ... read more
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