Alex regains tropical storm strength in Gulf

Tropical depression Alex picked up speed over the Gulf of Mexico and regained tropical storm strength on Sunday as two key Mexican oil ports remained closed.

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 has said.

But Shell Oil shut subsea production at the Auger and Brutus platforms in the Gulf due to the storm threat. On Saturday, it evacuated nonessential workers from production platforms and drilling rigs in US-regulated areas of the Gulf of Mexico oilfields.

Forecasters from the US National Hurricane Centre said on Sunday that “additional strengthening is forecast ... and Alex could become a hurricane within the next 48 hours.”

Alex is expected to make landfall again on Wednesday between Brownsville, Texas, and Tuxpan de Rodriguez Cano in Mexico, mostly sparing BP oil collection efforts.

Alex, the first named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, had sustained winds of 75km/h and was about 100km west-southwest of Campeche.
The system was moving west-northwest at 11km/h.

The Mexican government kept the ports of Dos Bocas and Cayo Arcas, which handle 80% of all its export shipping in the Gulf of Mexico, closed on Sunday afternoon citing bad weather and strong surf in the area.

State-run oil giant Pemex said its platforms in the Campeche Sound were working normally and there was no evacuation plan yet due to Alex.

“We are on alert but platforms remain working,” a Pemex spokesperson told Reuters on Sunday via SMS.

Pemex’s “emergency plan for hurricanes is constantly monitoring” systems in the area, he said.

El Salvador deaths
Two men drowned in El Salvador after they were swept away by a river swollen with rain dumped by Alex, civil protection head Jorge Melendez told reporters on Sunday.

Alex was expected to bring 10 to 20cm of rain to the Yucatan Peninsula through Tuesday. Isolated amounts of up to 38cm were possible over mountainous areas.

“Heavy rainfall could reach the coastal area of Tamaulipas and Veracruz Tuesday night and Wednesday,” the Miami-based centre said.

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. - Reuters

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