Hurricane Karl takes aim at Mexican Gulf coast

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2010

VERACRUZ, Mexico (AP) — Karl reached hurricane force in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday after dumping heavy rain on the Yucatan Peninsula. It was expected to strengthen more before hitting Mexico’s coast near a port and an oil hub sometime Friday.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, said there was a possibility that Karl could become a major hurricane with winds of 110 mph (175 kph) or higher before making landfall.

The Mexican government issued a hurricane warning for a 150-mile (250-kilometer) stretch of coast in Veracruz state. On its predicted path, Karl could make landfall near the coastal city of Tuxpan and the oil hub of Poza Rica.

The port of Tuxpan was closed to small craft Thursday, and Port Capt. Gaspar Cime said larger vessels would be banned later in the day.

Authorities in Veracruz — whose southern half has been battered by severe flooding over the past few weeks — braced for a hit on its northern coast, preparing sleeping mats, bottled water and other supplies for anyone needing to take refuge in shelters.

Workers in the port city of Veracruz cut dangerous tree limbs and inspected billboards to make sure they would not become flying debris if the hurricane hit.

By Thursday afternoon, Karl was centered 280 miles (450 kilometers) east-southeast of Tuxpan, with winds of 75 mph (120 kph). It was moving westward rapidly at about 12 mph (19 kph).

In the Atlantic, Hurricane Igor spun into a Category 4 storm that could generate dangerous rip currents along the U.S. East Coast over the weekend and bring large swells to the Bahamas and Virgin Islands before that. Category 2 Hurricane Julia was not a threat to land.