July 20, 2008 / 9:48 PM / 12 years ago

Tropical storm Dolly heads for Yucatan

CANCUN, Mexico (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Dolly headed for Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Sunday bearing heavy rains and winds, but it posed no immediate threat to Gulf oil installations slightly south of its projected path.

Dolly, the fourth such storm of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, was churning in the western Caribbean about 165 miles

southeast of Mexico’s popular tourist island Cozumel, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Mexico and neighboring Belize issued storm warnings for the Yucatan Peninsula.

“The impact of the storm is imminent tonight,” said Felix Gonzalez, the governor of the southern Mexican state of Quintana Roo, which is home to tourist resorts like Cancun.

Some evacuations were being ordered in the coastal town of Tulum, home to Mayan ruins and boutique hotels, and ferry traffic between Cozumel and the mainland was temporarily suspended, said a state emergency official.

Forecasters expect Dolly to emerge into the Gulf of Mexico on Monday, north of the country’s huge Cantarell oil field and other ports and platforms used by the world’s No. 6 oil producer and top supplier to the United States.

The storm was expected to briefly strengthen into a hurricane before hitting the U.S.-Mexico border next week.

Last year’s powerful Hurricane Dean forced Mexico’s state oil monopoly to shut down 2.65 million bpd of production when it pounded the country’s southeastern coast. But so far, Dolly is not expected to hit oil platforms.

The storm’s winds were around 45 mph (72 kph).

“Slight strengthening is possible today before Dolly reaches the Yucatan Peninsula. Slow strengthening is forecast on Monday once Dolly emerges over the southern Gulf of Mexico,” the center said.

The storm also is forecast to dump heavy rains and blow strong winds over the western tip of Cuba. Guatemala was pummeled by rains, causing landslides in the mountainous area near the country’s Caribbean coast, emergency workers said.

Some models say Dolly could eventually move into northern Mexico, while others showed it heading into southern Texas.

Writing by Matthew Bigg and Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Xavier Briand

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