Tropical Storm Karl Hits Yucatan, Some Evacuations Ordered

September 15, 2010

Tropical Storm Karl hit Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula Wednesday and was expected to head into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening Mexican oil installations and possibly gaining hurricane strength.

Mexico’s state-run oil giant Pemex has not yet curtailed any operations but said it would continue to monitor Karl’s progress as it approached its vast oil production operations in the Bay of Campeche, in the southern Gulf of Mexico.

Oil traders were keeping an eye on the storm’s progress but other factors, notably the repair of a major U.S. crude oil pipeline, were dominating market action Wednesday.

Hundreds of people, mostly from Mayan towns and villages, were being evacuated as Karl dumped rain and brought strong winds to the Yucatan, civil protection authorities said.

Majahual, home to a large cruise ship port, bore the brunt of the storm as it made landfall.

Karl, the 11th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, was losing strength as it moved inland. At mid-morning it had maximum sustained winds of 55 mph (95 kph), but was expected to weaken.

It was seen regaining strength after entering the Gulf of Mexico Wednesday night. Karl is expected to move across the southern Gulf of Mexico and make landfall again at hurricane strength near the Mexican ports of Tampico and Tuxpan by the weekend. Tuxpan is a major port for importing oil products.

Cancun, a top beach destination for U.S. and European tourists, was untouched by the storm, and it was also likely to pass far south of U.S. oil and natural gas platforms in the northern part of the Gulf of Mexico.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for the east coast of the Yucatan peninsula from Chetumal at the Mexico-Belize border northward to Cabo Catoche. This area is known for its white sand beaches and coral reefs.

Karl may bring some coastal flooding as well as large, damaging waves, forecasters said.

Two hurricanes, Igor and Julia, also raced across the Atlantic Ocean but posed no immediate threat to land or energy interests along their projected tracks.

Igor was 1,055 miles southeast of Bermuda and showed signs of weakening but was still a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale with 135 mph winds.

Strengthening overnight, Julia — 595 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands and moving northwest — was also a Category 4 hurricane with 135 mph (215 kph) winds. It was farther from land than Igor, a day after developing into the season’s fifth hurricane.

(Additional reporting by Cyntia Barrera Diaz, Robert Campbell in Mexico City; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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