Tropical Storm Ernesto weakens over land, kills three
MEXICO CITY, (Reuters) – Tropical Storm Ernesto weakened as it traveled inland from the Gulf of Mexico yesterday, but it sent wind gusts and showers across the state of Veracruz, home to some of Mexico’s busiest ports and oil installations.
The storm, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph), made landfall in the early afternoon close to the port city of Coatzacoalcos. Ernesto was heading west over southern Mexico at a speed of about 14 mph (22 kph), the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said in its 11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT) advisory.
The hurricane center said it expects further weakening as Ernesto moves over mountainous terrain on Friday. However, torrential rain and flooding was expected and authorities reported three deaths.
Officials from state-run oil company Pemex said there were no reports of disruptions to facilities in the region, which include the Minatitlan refinery, producing 185,000 barrels of crude per day.
The eye of the storm passed the oilfields of Cantarell and Ku Maloob Zaap, which account for just over half of Mexico’s oil production of about 2.5 million bpd.
Coatzacoalcos is home to one of Mexico’s key oil exporting ports, which has been closed since Wednesday along with Cayo Arcas and Dos Bocas.
Almost all of Mexico’s crude oil exports, which totaled 1.425 million bpd in June, are shipped to refineries on the Gulf Coast of the United States from the three ports.
Authorities in Veracruz said they were preparing emergency shelters, if needed, in the flood-prone and densely populated state. The small Mina-Coatza airport, between Minatitlan and Coatzacoal-cos, was closed on Thursday and waves of 13-20 feet (4-6 meters) were reported along the coast.
Ernesto is forecast to plow through Veracruz state and into central Mexico on Friday as a tropical depression.
The storm previously made landfall on Mexico’s Yucatan coast late on Tuesday as a Category 1 hurricane, the lowest on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, before being downgraded to a tropical storm on Wednesday.
Two people drowned and about 100 houses were damaged as the storm swept through the swampy state of Tabasco toward the Gulf of Mexico, according to local officials.
One person died in Coatzacoalcos after falling while working on home repairs, an official from the local Red Cross unit said.
The storm spared major tourist areas on the peninsula from a direct hit and landed in sparsely populated low-lying jungle, near the port town of Mahahual, 40 miles (64 km) north of Chetumal, the capital of Quintana Roo state.