Mexico's Gulf coast braces for Tropical Storm Larry

Saturday, October 4, 2003

VILLAHERMOSA, Mexico -- Residents in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz braced for floods, high tides and punishing rains Friday as a strengthened Tropical Storm Larry edged closer to land.

Tropical Storm Nora, hovering far south of Mexico's Baja California peninsula, was predicted to strengthen to a hurricane by today as it moved slowly out to sea, and a third tropical storm, Olaf, developed well south of Mexico's Pacific coastline.

Larry's maximum sustained winds were near 60 mph, with higher gusts, and tropical storm-force winds extended up to 175 miles from the center.

Olaf developed with 44 mph winds in an area almost 300 miles south of the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco. The storm was moving northwest at about 7 mph on a track that could take it closer to the coast and to the west, within about 120 miles of land, early next week.

The wind and heavy rains were expected to affect coastal areas and other portions of southeastern Mexico later Friday, posing the threat of flash floods and mudslides, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said. Larry's center was forecast to make landfall early Sunday.

President Vicente Fox ordered food, blankets, and medicines sent to coastal areas while Mexican officials set up shelters and warned people who live in the area to take cover.

Mexico's Health Department advised residents to prepare emergency provisions, including extra blankets, lanterns, batteries and canned food.

In the Yucatan peninsula state of Campeche, a major oil-producing area, driving rain was already falling and three major ports were closed.

In neighboring Tabasco state, officials reported scattered evacuations because of floods covering more than 7,400 acres of banana plantations.

A tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch remained in effect for the Bay of Campeche from Veracruz to Campeche.

Larry was located 110 miles east-northeast of Veracruz, and was drifting erratically southwestward.

Above-normal tides accompanied by "large and dangerous battering waves" were expected for the Bay of Campeche, along with flooding at all points where winds blow onshore, the hurricane center said.

Tropical Storm Nora, meanwhile, located 510 miles south of the southern tip of Baja California, was creeping northwest at 5 mph with winds of 65 mph. Nora was expected to strengthen into a hurricane by today, the hurricane center said.

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