September 14, 2013 / 9:36 PM / in 4 years

UPDATE 2-Hurricane Ingrid soaking Mexico's Gulf Coast

MEXICO CITY, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Tropical storm Ingrid strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane off Mexico’s Gulf Coast on Saturday, becoming the second hurricane of the Atlantic season as it dumped heavy rain across eastern Mexico.

Rain from the storm has caused river levels to rise and emergency services to prepare for evacuations, but state oil monopoly Pemex said its installations in the Gulf of Mexico were operating normally.

Ingrid, with winds of 75 miles per hour (120 kph), could grow even stronger over the next two days as it nears Mexico’s coast, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

The storm was 195 miles (315 km) east of the port of Tuxpan in Veracruz state at 2200 GMT and moving north at about 7 miles per hour (11 kph), the NHC said.

Pemex was operating under security protocols but none of its installations had been affected, a spokesman said earlier on Saturday.

Two of Mexico’s three major oil-exporting ports were closed, but most of the country’s Gulf Coast ports including Veracruz remained open on Saturday as the storm approached.

Emergency services in Veracruz state were preparing shelters in the event of flooding, but at midday the shelters were empty, a spokesman said.

A hurricane watch was in effect for a stretch of Veracruz’s northern coastline, the NHC said.

Landfall was expected on Monday morning for Ingrid, the ninth storm of the Atlantic hurricane season.

The storm was expected to dump between 10 inches (25 cm) and 25 inches (63 cm) of rain over a large part of eastern Mexico, which could cause rivers to swell, provoking flash floods and mudslides, according to the Miami-based NHC.

Ingrid could also bring a storm surge that would raise waters by two to four feet (0.6 to 1.2 meters) above normal tide levels near where the storm makes landfall, the NHC said.

Separately, tropical storm warnings are in effect on the Pacific Coast of Mexico from Acapulco to Manzanillo, where Tropical Storm Manuel is churning about 85 miles (135 km) offshore.

Manuel was dumping heavy rain and causing landslides in parts of Oaxaca and Guerrero states in western Mexico.

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