MIAMI — Hurricane Alex strengthened Wednesday in the Gulf of Mexico, but the storm was expected to miss major oil fields before making landfall later in the day or early Thursday.
The first named storm of the Atlantic season became a Category 1 hurricane late Tuesday night as it slowly moved west toward northern Mexico, where it was expected to drop as much as a foot of rain.
The National Hurricane Center warned Alex could increase in strength to a Category 2 storm before hitting the coast south of Brownsville, Texas. If this happened it would bring winds of up to 110 mph.
Officials in south Texas readied rescue vehicles, shelters in San Antonio and Laredo and rushed supplies to the Rio Grande Valley. Bob Pinkerton, mayor of South Padre Island, a coastal community where the entire economy rests on tourism, urged residents and visitors to evacuate.
The NHC warned that heavy rain could cause “life-threatening” flash floods and mudslides.
While the storm was forecast to miss major oil drilling sites, rough seas and rain were already hampering efforts to control damage left by an ongoing spill from the major leak at a BP facility south of Louisiana.
Alex’s storm center early Wednesday was about 190 miles southeast of Brownsville, the NHC said, to the south and west of the BP oil spill. It was moving in a west-northwest direction at about 7 mph.