Posted by: Schuyler R. Thorpe | June 19, 2011

Adrian Nears Hurricane Strength Off Mexico’s Coast

Storm ‘Adrian’ nears hurricane strength off Mexico

MIAMI (AFP) – A storm churning in the eastern Pacific strengthened rapidly Wednesday on track to become the season’s first hurricane, US meteorologists said as Mexico issued a watch for coastal areas.

Tropical Storm Adrian was about 285 miles (455 kilometers) southwest of the Mexican resort town of Acapulco, with maximum winds increasing to 70 miles (95 km) per hour, according to the US-based National Hurricane Center.

A storm reaches hurricane status when winds rise to 74 miles (119 km) per hour.

“Additional strengthening is likely during the next couple of days, and Adrian could become a hurricane later today,” the NHC said in a report.

While the storm was moving to the northwest and was expected to gradually turn westward away from land, the Mexican government took the precautionary step of issuing a tropical storm watch for its resort-dotted coast, from Acapulco westward to Punta San Telmo, NHC said.

Tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area by early Thursday, it said.

High surf will reach the coast later Wednesday, and “these swells could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.”

The latest forecasts show the eastern Pacific hurricane season, which began June 1, will likely feature nine to 15 named storms, and five to eight hurricanes, but with indications of 70 percent chance of a below-normal season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which oversees the NHC, said last month.

In the Atlantic, however, NOAA forecast elevated threats to the United States and Caribbean nations, with 12 to 18 likely named tropical storms, of which six to 10 could become hurricanes.

Along the southeastern United States, which counted itself lucky in 2010 with no major hurricanes making landfall, some 37 million people — living in coastal areas between the Gulf state of Texas and North Carolina, halfway up the US East Coast — are at risk from powerful hurricanes.

According to an April study by experts at Colorado State University, chances of a major hurricane pounding US eastern and southern shores this year stand at 72 percent, well above the average of 52 percent.

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