MEXICO CITY: A category-one hurricane weakened into a tropical storm early Thursday after slamming into Mexico’s eastern coast with powerful winds and heavy rain capable of producing deadly flash floods.
Hurricane Franklin made landfall near the town of Lechuguillas, some 70 miles (115 kilometers) northwest of the port of Veracruz, the US National Hurricane Center reported at 0600 GMT.
That is the lowest level on the five-point scale. Veracruz state authorities nevertheless declared a Red Alert, and said the amount of damage would depend on how much water Franklin dumps, and where.
Franklin, the first hurricane of the 2017 season, was packing maximum sustained winds of 85 miles (140 kilometers) per hour when it struck the coast, the NHC said.
Three hours later Franklin weakened into a tropical storm as it moved inland, still bringing heavy rain and dangerous winds of 70 miles (110 kilometers) per hour, the NHC said in its 0900 GMT bulletin.
Flash-floods and mudslides
Franklin is expected to drop rainfall totals of four to eight inches (101 to 202 millimeters), with isolated maximum amounts of 15 inches.
“These rains are capable of producing life-threatening flash floods and mudslides,” the NHC warned.
The storm was forecast to weaken as it moved across eastern Mexico on Thursday.
Veracruz Governor Miguel Angel Yunes told TV network Televisa that the areas “most at risk are the ones where we have ‘rapid response’ rivers, rivers that originate in the mountains near the coast and whose discharge of water can rise rapidly.”
There are 90 cities and towns that will likely feel the direct effects, with a total of more than two million residents, said Veracruz state disaster management chief Yolanda Baizabal.
Classes, tourism activity and navigation were all suspended in Veracruz state on Wednesday, as Mexican soldiers and sailors were deployed to carry out preventive evacuations.
In nearby Puebla, state authorities declared a Red Alert and prepared shelters for nearly 100,000 people who could be affected by the storm.
Soldiers and sailors also carried out preventive evacuations in the mountains of Puebla, where authorities fear that heavy rain could cause deadly landslides.
Franklin struck the Yucatan peninsula in eastern Mexico on Monday, and crossed the peninsula into the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday.
Mexico’s long eastern coastline is often struck by storms during the Atlantic hurricane season.
The season runs from June 1 through November 30 although hurricanes may also occur outside this period.
In September 2013 Mexico was struck almost simultaneously by hurricanes Ingrid in the east and Manuel in the west, leaving some 157 dead in the southern state of Guerrero.