Mexico Storms Leave 47 Dead, Strand Tourists in Acapulco

Storms that lashed both of Mexico’s coasts last weekend have left at least 47 people dead and trapped thousands of tourists in the resort city of Acapulco, Interior Minister Miguel Osorio Chong said.

Mexico’s two biggest airlines offered to rescue 40,000 stranded Acapulco tourists today after Hurricane Ingrid moved in from the Bay of Campeche and Tropical Storm Manuel hit from the Pacific. One hundred rivers and streams overflowed and 91 highways were waterlogged nationwide, Osorio Chong said in a radio interview yesterday. Milenio newspaper today reported 57 dead, citing Osorio Chong.

Manuel, which had degenerated to a remnant low, regained strength and became a tropical storm in the Pacific today, threatening more rain on Mexico’s west coast. A disturbance now over the Yucatan Peninsula may follow Hurricane Ingrid’s footprint and bring another round of flooding to the eastern coast, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

“It’s still raining in many cities and in large portions of the country,” Osorio Chong said in his interview with Radio Formula yesterday. The government is working to “protect the lives of people who live in towns where rains are most intense.”

Grupo Aeromexico SAB and Interjet said today they’ll fly all stranded Acapulco tourists for free to Mexico City as airport conditions improve.

Thousands Evacuated

Close to 40,000 people have been evacuated nationwide and it will take days to completely clear highways out of Acapulco, the minister said. The army rescued 500 people trapped in Acapulco yesterday after the city’s airport and highways were affected by heavy rains, he said.

Manuel strengthened into a tropical storm in the Pacific about 90 miles (145 kilometers) west of Mazatlan, Mexico with top winds of 40 miles per hour, according to U.S. National Hurricane Center advisory at 11 a.m. new York time. It was moving north-northwest at 3 mph.

A tropical storm warning is in place from Mazatlan to Topolobampo and a watch has been issued from Cabo San Lucas to San Evaristo, the Miami-based center said.

Manuel may drop 5 to 10 inches (13 to 25 centimeters) of rain over Sinaloa, with as much as 15 inches possible in some isolated areas, according to the center. In Nayarit and southern Baja California from 3 to 5 inches of rain is expected.

Additional Strength

The storm may gain some additional strength in the next two days, after that interaction with the land should cause it to weaken, according to a forecast by Daniel Brown, a hurricane center warning coordination meteorologist.

A large area of thunderstorms and low pressure drifting across the Yucatan Peninsula has an 80 percent chance of becoming a tropical system within five days, the center said.

“It’s actually eerily similar to the whole Ingrid evolution,” said Michael Schlacter, founder of Weather 2000 Inc. in New York. “Ingrid went in just north of Tampico and that is the kind of scenario here.”

Ingrid and Manuel drenched Mexico starting late last week.

The new system “will likely spread heavy rains over eastern Mexico,” the center said. “These rains could cause life-threatening floods and mud slides over areas already impacted by torrential rains associated with Ingrid and Manuel.”

Oil Fields

The system, like Ingrid, may cross the Bay of Campeche, where Petroleos Mexicanos, Mexico’s state-owned oil company known as Pemex, has its two largest oil fields, which produce about 1.25 million barrels a day.

A U.S. Air Force Reserve reconnaissance flight is scheduled to investigate the disturbance, according to the hurricane center in Miami.

Water temperature in the Bay of Campeche is about 84 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (29 to 30 Celsius) and there is low wind shear there, meaning conditions are conducive for strengthening, said Dan Kottlowski, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

“It looks to me that it has a pretty good chance to develop,” Kottlowski said by telephone.

So far this season, the eastern coast of Mexico has been struck by a tropical depression, two tropical storms and a hurricane. Weather patterns that kept the southern U.S. warmer than normal through the summer have helped steer storms on an east-to-west path through the Caribbean and southern Gulf of Mexico, Schlacter said.

“It goes hand-in-hand with our ridge and heat regimes across the U.S.,” Schlacter said.

In the Atlantic, forecasters are also tracking Tropical Storm Humberto, currently 1,060 miles west-southwest of the Azores with top sustained winds of 40 mph. It isn’t an immediate threat to land.

A system becomes a tropical storm when its winds reach 39 mph and a hurricane when winds hit 74 mph.

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