Ernesto again makes landfall in Mexico
08/10/2012 08:23 GMT
XALAPA, Mexico, Aug 10, 2012 (AFP) - Tropical Storm Ernesto has made landfall for a second time near the Mexican port of Coatzacoalcos, dumping heavy rains on the Gulf coast region and sparking flooding in some areas.
Ernesto weakened significantly after moving inland on Thursday, but not before drenching the area -- the Miami-based US National Hurricane Center said some areas could see up to 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain.
At 0600 GMT Friday, the eye of the storm was located about 125 kilometers (80 miles) northwest of the city of Oaxaca, with maximum sustained winds of 55 kilometers per hour, the center said in a bulletin.
The storm was downgraded to a tropical depression early Friday, but was still powerful. "Heavy rains continue over Mexico," the NHC said, adding that the storm, moving west, would likely dissipate later in the day.
Laura Gurza, the head of Mexico's civil defense agency, appealed to residents in the affected areas on Thursday to "be aware and respond to instructions from authorities."
Speaking to Milenio Television, she said officials were most concerned about swollen rivers and streams in the state of Veracruz, as well as mountainous areas that are prone to landslides.
Civil defense officials said 10 communities had been cut off by flood waters, but that no one had been hurt and no major damage reported.
The country's state-owned Pemex oil company meanwhile said safety measures had been reinforced at more than 200 offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.
The states of Tabasco, Puebla and Oaxaca were also affected.
"These rainfall amounts may produce life-threatening flash floods and mudslides," the NHC said, adding that all coastal watches and warnings had been lifted.
The storm, which initially came ashore on the Yucatan Peninsula on Tuesday as a category one hurricane before being downgraded to a tropical storm, caused some damage to the airport of Chetumal, a city of 151,000.
In Majahual, a small town with a growing tourism trade in Mexico's Quintana Roo state, businesses suffered some damage.
Power outages were reported in the walled city of Campeche, a World Heritage site on the west coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.
The storm -- which was the second hurricane of the Atlantic season -- began drenching Caribbean countries last week and also dumped heavy rains on areas of Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.
In the Pacific, Gilma which had strengthened into a category one hurricane on Wednesday, was downgraded to tropical storm status, as it churned out to sea.
At 0300 GMT Friday, it was located about 1,115 kilometers (700 miles) southwest of the southern tip of Baja California, and was not expected to pose a threat to land.
On Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration raised the severity of its predictions for the current hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30.
The latest outlook calls for 12 to 17 named storms, including five to eight hurricanes, of which two to three could be major. In May, it had forecast nine to 15 named storms.
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