Hurricane Alex has made landfall near Soto La Marina and La Pesca in Mexico’s Tamaulipas State as a category 2 hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The storm made landfall around 02:00 UTC on July 1 (22:00 on 30 June local time) with sustained winds of around 105 mph (165 kmph). The NHC said Alex was the first category 2 hurricane to develop in June in the Atlantic since Hurricane Alma in 1966. At 09:00 UTC, Alex was located 20 miles (30 kilometers) north of Ciudad Victoria in Mexico with reduced sustained winds of around 80 mph (130 kmph). Alex is traveling in a westerly direction and the NHC said the storm is expected to weaken to a tropical storm later today and dissipate in the next 24 to 36 hours. At landfall, the NHC said hurricane-force winds extended 70 miles (110 kilometers) from the center of the storm while tropical storm-force winds extended 205 miles (335 kilometers).
A hurricane warning remains in effect from Rio San Fernando to La Cruz in Mexico. Tropical storm warnings are also in place from north of Rio San Fernando to the mouth of the Rio Grande and south of La Cruz to Cabo Rojo. All hurricane warnings in Texas have been discontinued. The NHC said Alex could produce 6 to 12 inches (150 to 300 millimeters) of rain over parts of northeastern Mexico, with up to 20 inches (510 millimeters) possible in isolated areas. Alex is also expected to bring 8 inches (200 millimeters) of rainfall to parts of southern Texas, with 10 inches (255 millimeters) possible in places. The NHC said the heavy rain could cause life threatening flash floods and mudslides, especially in mountainous terrain, and warned tornadoes could spawn over parts of southern Texas today.
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Prior to Alex making landfall, the NHC warned waves up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) above ground level were expected along the immediate coast near and to the north of where the centre of the storm made landfall. The NHC said the surge will gradually diminish today. Although Alex avoided the BP oil spill off the Louisiana coast, reports said the storm still generated high seas in the region. BP consequently announced that plans to increase the amount of oil being captured from the well could be delayed by up to a week. Controlled burns of crude on the surface, flights spraying dispersant chemicals and booming operations were also halted, officials said. Reports also said the high waves pushed more of the huge slick onto fragile shorelines.
The NHC said Alex made landfall around 115 miles (185 kilometers) south of the Texas/Mexico border. President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Texas on June 29 and Texas Governor Rick Perry issued his own state disaster proclamation for 19 counties. Parts of southern Texas were hit by tropical storm-force winds (gusts of up to 65 mph have been recorded in places) as Alex came ashore, and heavy rain has been reported in the area. In Brownsville, officials said at least 40 streets had been flooded and as many as six tornadoes were reported in the area, downing trees and power lines and cutting power to about 4,000 households. Officials in Cameron and Hidalgo counties added that some 1,000 people in southern Texas were taking shelter in evacuation centres. Further afield, reports said heavy rain and thunderstorms associated with the outer bands of Alex were affecting the entire Gulf Coast from Texas to Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle.
More significant damage and disruption has been reported in northeastern Mexico as Alex’s strong winds and heavy rain ripped off roofs, uprooted trees, flooded streets and killed one person in Monterrey. Reports said the heavy rain flooded half of the Mexican border city of Matamoros (population of 450,000 people) and more than 5,000 people living in Tamaulipas State fled inland to take refuge in storm shelters. Officials said around 1,500 people evacuated to shelters in Matamoros after 14 inches (355 millimeters) of rain triggered flash floods and caused some damage. Elsewhere, all 2,000 inhabitants in the fishing town of La Carbonera, located just to the north of the storm’s landfall point, were evacuated.
Offshore, Alex missed much of the major oil drilling sites in the Gulf of Mexico. However, Shell Oil and Marathon Oil said production has been shutdown at some of their platforms near Alex’s path. Shell, Marathon, Exxon Mobil, Anadarko Petroleum and Apache also evacuated non-essential workers from platforms and rigs in region. U.S. officials said about 26 percent of oil production and 14 percent of natural gas output in the Gulf of Mexico has been shut. The Mexican ports of Dos Bocas and Cayo Arcas, which handle 80 percent of all the country’s export shipping in the Gulf of Mexico, were also closed due to bad weather and strong surf in the area.
Sources: National Hurricane Center, WSI, Associated Press, Reuters News, Agence France Presse
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