Brian K. Sullivan and Randall Hackley
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Tropical Storm Alex, the first named system of the Atlantic hurricane season, strengthened today over open waters, forcing the evacuation of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico while pushing swells toward the worst U.S. oil spill.
The storm, packing maximum sustained winds of 70 miles (110 kilometers) per hour, was 380 miles southeast of Brownsville, Texas, heading north-northwest at 12 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in a 7 a.m. CDT advisory. The circulating winds approached hurricane status of 74 mph.
A hurricane warning was issued for the coast of Texas near Padre Island to the mouth of the Rio Grande and south of the Mexico border to La Cruz, the hurricane center said. The storm will intensify and turn more to the northwest today, moving further from the oil spill, it said. BP Plc said efforts to contain the spill may be disrupted as weather conditions worsen.
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“Alex is likely to become a hurricane later today,” the center said. Five to 10 inches of rain was forecast for southern Texas and northeastern Mexico over the next few days, some of which could cause deadly “flash floods and mudslides, especially in mountainous terrain,” it said. Landfall near the U.S.-Mexico border was expected late tomorrow or early July 1.
A hurricane watch means storm conditions may develop within 36 hours. A tropical storm warning remains in effect for the low-lying coastal area from Baffin Bay to Port O’Connor, Texas. A storm system is named once sustained winds reach 39 mph.
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“Alex will be a large hurricane,” Jim Rouiller, senior energy meteorologist for Planalytics Inc., said yesterday. “Current projections place the destructive right forward quad of Alex across southeast Texas, possibly up to Corpus Christi.”
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