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Jun 27, 2010 6:54 PM by Chris Welty

Alex, First Named Atlantic Storm, Moves into Gulf

BELIZE CITY (AP) - Tropical Storm Alex moved into the Gulf of
Mexico Sunday after weakening to a depression as it swirled across
Belize and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, dumping rains that left at
least four people dead across the region.
Alex is expected to regain strength in the coming days as it
moves over warmer waters in the Gulf and possibly become a
hurricane headed toward Mexico's Caribbean coast, well away from
the area where BP PLC is trying to stop a massive oil leak, the
U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
On Sunday, Alex soaked parts of Central America and the Yucatan
Peninsula with torrential downpours, forcing hundreds of tourists
to flee resort islands. Winds were at 60 mph (95 kph) when the
storm made landfall in Belize on Saturday night but had decreased
to 35 mph (55 kph) by Sunday.
The hurricane center said Alex is expected to become a tropical
storm again on Monday. Rains will likely keep falling on southern
Mexico and Guatemala until Monday afternoon.
The heavy rains prompted a landslide in northwestern Guatemala
that dislodged a large rock outcropping, killing two men who had
taken shelter from the storm underneath, according to the national
disaster-response agency.
In El Salvador, Civil Protection chief Jorge Melendez said two
people were swept away by rivers that jumped their banks. About 500
people were evacuated from their homes.
Authorities in both Guatemala and Belize were keeping an eye on
rising river levels. One bridge in western Belize was swamped
entirely, cutting off a remote Mennonite community. Seven homes in
the Belize River Valley, outside Belize City, had their roofs blown
off, and at least one structure collapsed.
Belize officials opened storm shelters in the island tourist
resort of San Pedro, as 1,400 people fled for the mainland by plane
and by boat.
But the country apparently avoided major damage, and emergency
coordinator Noreen Fairweather said on national radio that there
were no reports of injuries. People who took refuge in storm
shelters were returning home.
There were no immediate reports of damage to Mexico's
resort-studded Caribbean coast, which includes popular beach
destinations such as Cancun, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen.
Now all eyes are on the Gulf of Mexico.
When Alex became the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane
season, officials immediately worried what effect it could have on
efforts to contain the millions of gallons of crude spewing into
the Gulf.
A cap has been placed over the blown-out undersea well,
directing some of the oil to a surface ship where it is being
collected or burned. Other ships are drilling two relief wells,
projected to be done by August, which are considered the best hope
to stop the leak.
For the time being, the storm appears likely to miss the
oil-slicked region and make landfall in Mexico, apparently in
Tamaulipas state - but meteorologists warned that a storm's track
can quickly change.
Alex was centered about 55 miles (90 kilometers) south-southwest
of Campeche, Mexico, on Sunday afternoon. It was moving toward the
west-northwest near 9 mph (15 kph).
Meanwhile in the Pacific, once-powerful hurricanes Celia and
Darby weakened to tropical storms and did not pose a threat to
land.

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