Fri, Jul 02, 2010 - Page 7 News List

Hurricane Alex sweeps northeast Mexico

AFP , MATAMOROS, MEXICO

Hurricane Alex, the first of the Atlantic season, battered northeast Mexico with torrential rain and violent winds yesterday after disrupting oil clean-up operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

Alex roared ashore late on Wednesday as a Category Two storm with its eye 56km north of La Pesca, Mexico and 177km south of Brownsville, Texas, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC).

However, the NHC said that by 6am Alex had eakened to a Category One storm on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale.

The storm, which packed still dangerous winds of 140kph, was expected further weaken as it moved westward over Mexico.

Mexican officials reported no immediate casualties, though a 23-year-old Mexican was killed when the storm first touched southern Mexico earlier in the week, and at least 10 people died as Alex passed through Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador over the weekend.

The Mexican navy kept some 2,000 sailors at their barracks in Tamaulipas, while about 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, local officials said, and tornadoes were reported in southern Texas.

Several car accidents were reported during stormy conditions in Nuevo Leon.

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 6am, Alex was moving west-southwest at about 17kph.

“Alex is expected to weaken to a Tropical Storm later [yesterday] and dissipate over Mexico by Friday,” the NHC said.

Alex’s winds extended outward 55km from the eye, and tropical storm force winds extended out to 335km, well into Texas.

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