Posted by: Schuyler R. Thorpe | July 11, 2011

Tropical Storm Arlene Eyes Mexican Coastline

First named Atlantic storm eyes Mexican coast

Mexico’s Gulf coast was on high alert Wednesday as the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season took aim at a region still recovering from the worst floods on record last year.

Tropical Storm Arlene was packing sustained winds of 60 miles (95 kilometers) per hour and heavy rains, and the Miami-based US National Hurricane Center forecast it would strengthen before making landfall early Thursday near the border of Tamaulipas and Veracruz states.

“The state of Veracruz is on red alert,” the region’s Civil Protection director Laura Gurza told a news conference.

The northeast state of Tamaulipas was on a slightly less urgent “orange” alert.

Gurza said however that forecasters were expecting Arlene not to strengthen to a hurricane, but instead make landfall as a tropical storm.

State-run oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) had also issued an “alert” for its facilities on the Gulf of Mexico, ensuring that safety measures were implemented for its platforms and that all transport and delivery ships were secured.

Arlene was some 150 miles (240 kilometers) east of the town of Tampico at 5:30 pm (2230 GMT) and churning westward at five miles (seven kilometers) per hour, the NHC said.

The storm was forecast to dump between four and eight inches (10-20 centimeters) of rain over Tamaulipas and Veracruz, with isolated maximum amounts of 15 inches (38 centimeters) over mountainous terrain.

“These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides,” the NHC warned in a bulletin, adding that the coastline could be battered by “large and destructive waves.”

The northeast coast from Barra de Nautla northward to Bahia Algones was under a storm warning, and tropical storm conditions were expected to hit the coast beginning later Wednesday.

Mexico was lashed last year by what the government described as the wettest rainy season on record. Several tropical storms and hurricanes caused flooding and mudslides that left dozens of people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless.

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