Ernesto, the second hurricane of the Atlantic season, weakened to tropical storm strength as it moved over Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, the National Hurricane Center said. It’s forecast to cross into the Bay of Campeche later today and may regain hurricane status over warmer waters.
Ernesto was 55 miles (85 kilometers) west-northwest of Chetumal, Mexico, moving west at 15 miles per hour, the Miami-based center said in a 4 a.m. Central time advisory. The rain-laden storm packed 70 mph winds, down from 85 mph at landfall, the NHC said. A Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale starts at 74 mph.
Mexico’s state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, has wells in the Bay of Campeche that may be shut because of the storm, said Jim Rouiller, a senior energy meteorologist at Planalytics Inc. in Pennsylvania. Mexico, the third-largest oil exporter to the U.S., supplied 1.05 million barrels a day of crude in the week ended July 27, Energy Department data show.
“This is not a very strong system,” Rouiller said yesterday. “I don’t anticipate much damage at all to the Mexican rigs.”
Hurricane warnings were posted for Barra de Nautla to Coatzacoalcos. As much as 12 inches (30 centimeters) of rain may fall over the Yucatan including Belize and northern Guatemala, creating life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, the center said.
Bay of Campeche
Some computer models predict Ernesto may cross the mountains of Mexico and re-form in the Pacific. The hurricane center said it wasn’t ready to forecast that “unusual event.”
Its forecast track shows the storm in the southern Bay of Campeche later today and tomorrow, moving west, making landfall in Mexico’s south tomorrow night perhaps at hurricane status, weakening to a tropical storm and depression status once inland.
In the Pacific off Mexico, Tropical Storm Gilma was nearing hurricane strength with 70 mph, the center also said. It was 645 miles southwest of the southern tip of Baja California moving west and no danger to land, the NHC said.