MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Hermine strengthened in the Gulf of Mexico on Monday as it approached landfall near the U.S.-Mexico border, but oil and gas operations in the Gulf were unaffected.
Hermine, the eighth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, may reach hurricane strength before it makes landfall on Monday night, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
The storm’s forecast path kept it away from major oil and natural gas installations in the Gulf of Mexico, and energy companies said there had been no affect on their operations.
The Miami-based hurricane center warned the storm could dump heavy rain on the coastal region and would pack a 2-to-4-foot (0.75-to-1.25-meter) storm surge that could cause deadly flash flooding and mudslides.
A tropical storm warning was in effect from La Cruz, Mexico, to Port O’Connor, Texas, while a hurricane watch was in effect from Rio San Fernando Mexico, to Baffin Bay, Texas.
At 4 p.m. CDT (2100 GMT), Hermine was about 100 miles south-southeast of Brownsville, Texas, and moving north-northwest at 15 mph and the storm had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph.
Hurricane Alex hit northeastern Mexico in July, killing 12 people and causing heavy flooding in the business capital of Monterrey. Damage from the storm was estimated at $700 million.
Hermine was expected to dump 4 to 8 inches of rain over northeastern Mexico and south Texas, with isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches possible, the hurricane center said.
In the Mexican coastal city of Matamoros, residents braced for flooding as authorities remained on high alert. The drainage system is often clogged with garbage and prone to overflow during heavy rains.
“Every time there is a hurricane or a storm, we have problems,” said Rene Polanco, 48, who works in a supermarket in Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville. “It’s because of poor drainage in the city.”
At least 30 residential areas could be in danger from floods, although no evacuations had started yet, an official for the city’s civil protection said.
In the Atlantic, the remnant of Tropical Storm Gaston continued to move westward and had a high chance of reforming as a tropical cyclone during the next 48 hours.
Storm models predicted Gaston would travel almost due west, which would take it very close to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Energy traders keep a close eye on potentially violent storms approaching the Gulf because it is home to about 30 percent of U.S. oil production, 11 percent of natural gas production and more than 43 percent of U.S. refinery capacity.
The hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30 and is currently in its peak period.
Reporting by Cyntia Barrera Diaz in Mexico City, Erwin Seba in Houston, and Pascal Fletcher in Florida; Editing by Peter Cooney