Tropical Storm Alex makes landfall in Belize

Tropical Storm Alex made landfall in Belize Saturday night, dumping showers on northern Guatemala and the Yucatan Peninsula, the U.S. National Hurricane Centre said.

The storm was not an imminent threat to oil-siphoning efforts at BP’s blown-out Macondo well in the Gulf, the US Coast Guard said.

Current forecasts project Alex will emerge in the southern Gulf of Mexico on Sunday and make landfall again as a minimal hurricane later in the week between Brownsville, Texas, and Tuxpan de Rodriguez Cano, Mexico, sparing BP spill collection efforts.

Alex, the first named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, carried sustained winds of 95km/h and was located about 30km north-west of Belize City, Belize.

The storm was expected to ease its pace as it moves inland over Belize and the Yucatan Peninsula overnight, the Miami-based centre said at 2am GMT.

In Chetumal, the capital of the state of Quintana Roo across the border with Belize, people dined at restaurants as streets emptied before heavier rain and winds arrived in the early hours of Sunday.

Earlier on Saturday, Quintana Roo state authorities evacuated 200 people from fishing villages across the Chinchorro reef, near Belize, and Xcalak, famous for its diving spots.

Some rain fell over Cancun, a major seaside resort that draws US and European visitors, but there was no threat to some 35 000 tourists in the area, civil protection said.

Alex was moving west-northwest at 19km but its speed should decrease over the next 48 hours.

“Strengthening is forecast on Sunday night and Monday after Alex moves over the southern Gulf of Mexico,” the centre said.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for the coast of Belize and the east coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula from Chetumal to Cancun.

Alex was expected to bring 10 to 20 cm of rain through to Sunday evening.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 and meteorologists predict this year will be a very active one. Hurricanes feed on warm water and the sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic are higher than usual this year.

In the Pacific, hurricanes Darby and Celia weakened to tropical storms as they continued to dissipate. - Reuters

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