The government of Mexico issued a hurricane watch Friday that stretches from Tampico to Veracruz as Tropical Storm Nate meandered in the Bay of Campeche.
The latest storm to burst onto the scene was drifting west late Friday about 205 miles east of Veracruz, with maximum sustained winds of near 50 mph, down from 65 mph earlier in the day, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said. Forecasters said it could be near hurricane strength as it approaches Mexico's Gulf Coast Sunday or Monday.
"Unfortunately, all the models are moving it off to the west into Mexico, not even bringing any humidity into southeast Texas. It looks like it's moving in to Mexico by Monday," KPRC Local 2 meteorologist Anthony Yanez told KPRC in Houston.
Mexico's state oil company and a Texas-based company searched for 10 missing oil workers Friday, including four Americans, who evacuated from a Gulf research vessel ahead of Nate.
Petroleos Mexicanos said it had two ships searching in the area where the workers, employed by Houston-based Geokinetics Inc., called for help Thursday afternoon after leaving a vessel known as a liftboat, the Trinity II, on an enclosed life raft.
"We're deeply concerned about the incident in the Gulf of Mexico involving our employees and others who had to abandon a disabled liftboat due to conditions brought about by Tropical Storm Nate," Geokinetics spokeswoman Brenda Taquino said. "The safety and rescue of the employees, everyone on the life raft, is a top priority."
Taquino said the company learned Thursday morning that the 94-foot, 185-ton Trinity II, contracted from Louisiana-based Trinity Liftboat Services LLC, was disabled in the Bay of Campeche because of storm conditions. A liftboat can lower legs to the sea floor and then elevate itself above the water level. This one was being used as a recording vessel and housing for the crew, and it was in waters about 25 feet (8 meters) deep.
Swirling in the Atlantic
Tropical Storm Maria, meanwhile, could reach the Leeward Islands in the Atlantic by Saturday and the Virgin Islands by Saturday night, and rain from what had been Tropical Storm Lee continued inundating a wide portion of Pennsylvania and other northeastern states, leaving at least seven dead.
Maria's maximum sustained winds late Friday were 45 mph, with some slight strengthening possible, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami and it was moving toward the west-northwest at nearly 14 mph.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for a host of islands: Antigua, Anguilla, Barbuda, Montserrat, Nevis, St. Kitts, the British Virgin Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, St. Maartin, Saba and St. Eustatius
Also, Hurricane Katia was moving northeast away from the U.S. east coast as a Category 1 storm with sustained winds of 85 mph.
Katia was centered 365 miles southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia, late Friday and was moving northeast at nearly 46 mph. The long-term forecast indicated it could reach Scotland as a storm on Monday.
The Associated Press and Tampa Bay Online contributed to this report.