September 17, 2010 / 9:45 AM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 4-Hurricane Karl hits Mexico coast, weakens

 * Flash flooding, mudslides possible in Veracruz state
 * Karl weakens to Category 1 hurricane
 * Mexico oil industry spared big damage
 (Updates with storm weakening, no immediate reports of death)
 By Robert Campbell
 VERACRUZ, Mexico, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Hurricane Karl hit
Mexico's central Gulf Coast on Friday, threatening to cause
flash floods and mudslides but weakening as it moved ashore.
 The storm appeared to have spared Mexican oil operations
from major damage after sweeping through the Bay of Campeche,
where Mexico produces more than two-thirds of its 2.55 million
barrels per day of crude output.
 There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries
although dozens of trees were knocked down in the port city of
Veracruz.
 Karl, projected to produce a storm surge of as much as 15
feet (4.5 metres) above normal tide levels, made landfall about
10 miles (15 km) north of Veracruz on Friday morning, the U.S.
National Hurricane Center said.
 Karl, which weakened from a Category 3 to Category 1 storm
as it moved ashore, was blowing sustained winds of up to 90
miles per hour (150 kph).
 The government ordered evacuations of low-lying areas in
the important shipping port of Veracruz, which is also a
popular destination for Mexican tourists.
 More than 1,000 people were already in shelters, a state
civil protection official told W Radio. Operations were
suspended at Mexico's only nuclear power plant, which was in
Karl's path, officials said.
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 The southern part of Veracruz has already suffered
extensive flooding this year and Veracruz's state governor,
Fidel Herrera, warned of high winds and water.
 Mexican authorities are experienced at evacuating people
caught in the path of hurricanes and death tolls caused by
hurricanes hitting Mexico are usually low.
 MINOR WELLS SHUT
 Mexico's state oil monopoly Pemex said it had closed down
14 minor wells and evacuated platforms in the Gulf, but the
storm seemed to inflict no lasting damage to its operations. It
did not say if the wells produced oil or natural gas.
 The storm poured rain in coastal areas and raised winds
strong enough to bend small palm trees in Veracruz.
 People trying to walk against the wind were unable to
advance during heavy gusts. Light poles buckled and power went
out in part of the city. Before the center of the storm hit the
coast, fishermen rushed to secure their small vessels.
 "What a fright. I have never seen anything like this," said
Ester Garza, a mother of three from central Mexico who was
vacationing in Veracruz.
 The U.S. storm center said Karl was expected to dissipate
as it breaks up against Mexico's coastal mountains.
 As much as 10 inches (25 cm) of rain could soak coastal
communities, with more falling in interior mountain towns in
coffee-producing Veracruz state.
 Mexico's oil industry had to scramble on Thursday after
Karl came across the Yucatan Peninsula into the Bay of
Campeche. Two of Mexico's main oil exporting ports closed as
Karl passed.
 IGOR CHURNING IN ATLANTIC
 Karl is just one storm that has formed in the Atlantic this
hurricane season. Hurricane Igor, a Category 2 storm, swirled
with sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph) on a course that
could take it to Bermuda by Sunday.
 Hurricane Julia was located far east of Igor and posed no
immediate threat to land.
 Bermuda residents stocked up on supplies and secured their
homes. The rocky island, a tiny British overseas territory that
is a hub for the global insurance industry, is one of the
world's most isolated yet densely populated islands.
 The Bermuda government's emergency agency warned residents
to prepare for a similar impact from Igor as the island
experienced from the 2003 Hurricane Fabian, which killed four
people and caused millions of dollars of damage.
 Loading shopping bags onto his moped in downtown Hamilton,
Matthew Lewis said he would board up the windows of his
hillside home and remove any items from his garden that could
become projectiles in hurricane-force wind.
 "When you see a storm that large, you do tend to get a bit
daunted, to say the least, because we've got nowhere to run to.
So yeah, it does get a little bit scary," Lewis said.
 (Additional reporting by Michael O'Boyle and Luis Mena in
Mexico City and Samantha Strangeways, Jane Ross and Katharine
Jackson in Hamilton, Bermuda; Editing by Missy Ryan, Kieran
Murray and Mohammad Zargham)


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