MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Tropical storm Ingrid strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane off Mexico's Gulf coast on Saturday, becoming the second hurricane of the Atlantic season as it lashed heavy rains across eastern Mexico.
Ingrid, packing winds of 75 miles per hour (120 km per hour), could grow even stronger over the next two days as it nears Mexico's coast, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
The storm was 195 miles east of the port of Tuxpan in Veracruz state at 6 p.m. ET but Mexico's major oil installations in the Gulf were operating normally, said a spokesman for Mexico's state oil monopoly Pemex.
One of Mexico's three major oil-exporting ports was closed, but most of the country's Gulf-coast ports remained open on Saturday as the storm approached.
Emergency services in Veracruz state were preparing shelters in the event of flooding, but at midday the shelters were empty, a spokesman said.
A hurricane watch was in effect for a stretch of Veracruz's northern coastline, the NHC said.
Landfall was expected on Monday morning for Ingrid, the ninth storm of the Atlantic hurricane season.
The storm was expected to dump between 10 inches and 25 inches of rain over a large part of eastern Mexico, which could cause rivers to swell, provoking flash floods and mud slides, according to the NHC.
Ingrid could also bring a storm surge that would raise waters by two to four feet above normal tide levels near where the storm makes landfall, the NHC said.
Separately, tropical storm warnings are in effect on the Pacific Coast of Mexico from Acapulco to Manzanillo, where tropical storm Manuel is churning about 105 miles from the coast.
(Reporting by Adriana Barrera and Elinor Comlay; editing by Gunna Dickson)
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