Hurricane Alex Could Reach Land Today in Mexico, Texas

June 30, 2010

Hurricane Alex strengthened in the Gulf of Mexico early Wednesday and was expected to make landfall later in the day but skirt Mexican oil rigs and U.S. oil fields, alleviating concerns in crude markets.

The first named storm of the Atlantic season became a Category 1 hurricane late Tuesday night as it slowly moved west toward northern Mexico where it was expected to drop as much as a foot of rain.

While the storm was forecast to miss major oil drilling sites, rough seas and rain were already hampering efforts to control damage left by an ongoing spill from the major leak at a BP Plc facility south of Louisiana.

Waves as high as 12 feet were expected to delay for several days the company’s plans to hook up a further system to capture much more oil from the blown-out oil well.

Controlled burns of crude on the oil’s surface, flights spraying dispersant chemicals and booming operations were all halted on Tuesday, officials said.

The storm was not expected to interrupt the company’s plans to drill a pair of relief wells intended to plug the leak by August, BP has said.

Some energy companies evacuated personnel and shut down some production as a precautionary measure.

Forecasters expected Alex to make land on Wednesday night, bringing 6 to 12 inches of rain to northeastern Mexico and southern Texas as well as dangerous storm surges along the coast.

Alex was packing winds of 80 mph and was located about 235 miles southeast of Brownsville, Texas. It was moving west at 7 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said at 5 a.m. EDT.

A hurricane warning was issued for the coast of Texas south of Baffin Bay down to the mouth of the Rio Grande, and along the coast of Mexico La Cruz. A tropical storm warning extended down to Cabo Rojo, just south of the port city of Tampico.

Officials in south Texas readied rescue vehicles, shelters in San Antonio and Laredo and rushed supplies to the Rio Grande Valley. Bob Pinkerton, mayor of South Padre Island, a coastal community where the entire economy rests on tourism, urged residents and visitors to evacuate.

Mexico has closed its Gulf coast ports of Dos Bocas and Cayo Arcas — which handle around 80 percent of the country’s oil exports — since Sunday due to strong surf.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov 30 and meteorologists predict an active storm season. Alex is the first June storm in fifteen years to gain hurricane strength in the Atlantic.

(Writing by Patrick Rucker; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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