Tropical Storm Karl Rakes Mexico, Threatens Gulf Oil Installations

CANCUN (Dow Jones Newswires), Sep. 16, 2010

A menacing Tropical Storm Karl drenched Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula Thursday and headed toward Gulf oil installations, as a rare duo of hurricanes roiled waters out in the Atlantic.

Karl, the 11th named storm of the season, which forecasters have predicted could be one of the worst on record, dumped yet more rain on Mexico, which is already struggling with heavy flooding in southeastern states.

The storm made landfall near Puerto Bravo, in Quintana Roo state, unleashing heavy rains in the extreme west of the Yucatan, affecting Maya ruins in Tulum.

It also left some 10,000 homes without electricity before heading back out over open water and setting its sights on Mexico's Gulf coast.

Karl threatened to "pass very nearby" Pemex oil company installations, said Jaime Albarran of the National Weather Service.

Pemex said its operations around the eastern Campeche Sound, where most of its crude is produced, appeared unaffected so far.

The storm did not wash out Mexico's bicentennial independence celebrations in the Yucatan region, with authorities reporting no event canceled so far.

Yet by 1200 GMT, Karl had strengthened substantially, with sustained winds near 65 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said.

It could roar ashore in the state of Veracruz late Friday or early Saturday as a category one hurricane, it added.

Heavy rains from the storm system, especially in mountainous areas, "could cause life-threatening flash floods and mud slides," the center warned.

The Mexican government issued a hurricane watch for the coast from La Cruz southward to Barra de Nautla.

The NHC warned Karl could bring coastal flooding and up to 20 centimeters of rain to Mexico and parts of Belize and northern Guatemala.

Lined up behind Karl, two Atlantic hurricanes were churning simultaneously -- the first time in a decade there were two category four storms in the seas at the same time, forecasters said.

But they posed no immediate threat to land, they added.

Hurricane Julia had weakened to category three status Wednesday, then eased further to a category two system early Thursday.

At 0900 GMT it was forecast to continue weakening as it moved far out in the eastern Atlantic.

Igor, however, remained an "extremely dangerous" category four storm, which is the second most powerful level on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale.

It was packing top winds of 145 miles an hour, the NHC said.

At 0900 GMT, Igor's center was churning northeast of the Leeward islands and was expected to remain a major hurricane for several more days.

"Large swells generated by Igor will continue to affect the Leeward islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands" Thursday, and later the Bahamas, the NHC said.

"These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip-current conditions."

Copyright (c) 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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