Tropical storm hits Mexico's gulf coast

/ Source: The Associated Press

Tropical Storm Marco roared ashore on Mexico's Gulf coast with near-hurricane force winds on Tuesday, prompting a shutdown of some oil platforms and forcing the evacuation of some 3,000 people.

Once over land, Marco quickly weakened to a tropical depression and was expected to dissipate overnight as it moved over Mexico's mountainous terrain. Forecasters still warned that rains of up to 5 inches in central Mexico could unleash mudslides.

Off Mexico's Pacific coast, Norbert strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane and forcasters said it could threaten land.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Norbert was moving west-northwest at 10 mph and was expected to continue on that path through Wednesday and then turn toward Baja California on Thursday. It was located 500 miles south of Baja California's tip late Tuesday.

The storm had sustained winds of near 105 mph. Norbert, the seventh hurricane of the east Pacific, was expected to become a major hurricane on Wednesday.

In Veracruz, Tropical storm Marco flooded coastal highways and brought heavy rains to the coast, including the city of Veracruz. But the busy port appeared to have escaped most of the storm's wrath.

The storm also appeared to have spared water-logged southern Veracruz state, where rain-swollen rivers jumped their banks, leaving the towns of Minatitlan and Hidalgotitlan under 10 feet of water last week.

Veracruz state authorities closed schools and set up some 200 shelters, while soldiers and rescue officials bused people from low-lying communities.

In northern Veracruz state, authorities evacuated a hospital in the town of Misantla, where two overflowing rivers threatened with flooding it.

Mexico's state oil company said it had evacuated 33 workers from four offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, closed six wells and shut down a natural gas processing plant in Veracruz state ahead of Marco's arrival.

Mexico's Communications and Transportation Department also ordered the ports of Nautla and Alvarado closed to small vessels.

The storm hit land about 55 miles north of Veracruz with winds near hurricane strength.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Mexico, Norbert strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane over the Pacific Ocean late Monday and forecasters said it could hit the southern Baja California Peninsula by the weekend before bringing rain to the northern Mexican mainland.

The hurricane center said Norbert was centered 545 miles south-southeast of the tip of the peninsula early Tuesday and it was moving west-northwest at 9 mph. It had maximum sustained winds of near 85 mph and was likely to strengthen.