Franklin becomes hurricane, aims at Mexico Gulf coast

Author: AP
Published: Updated:

MEXICO CITY (AP) The first Atlantic hurricane of 2017 is poised to hit Mexico’s central Gulf coast.

Tropical Storm Franklin strengthened into a hurricane Wednesday afternoon in the Bay of Campeche, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. Landfall is expected late Wednesday night or early Thursday.

Franklin’s center was 175 miles east-southeast of Tuxpan, Mexico and it was heading west at 12 mph Wednesday afternoon.

A hurricane warning was in effect for Mexico’s coast from Puerto de Veracruz to Cabo Rojo. A tropical storm warning extended east to Puerto Dos Bocas and north to Barra del Tordo in southern Tamaulipas state.

Still, the effects are expected to be short-lived, and it poses no threat to Florida.

“By tomorrow morning it will be dissipating over the mountains, moving inland toward Mexico City,” WINK meteorologist Scott Zedeker said.

Mexico Civil Protection director Ricardo de la Cruz said Tuesday that the storm’s impact on Yucatan, where it made landfall before re-emerging over open waters, was not as bad as initially feared, with some trees down and power out in some areas. But, he warned, “The second impact could even be stronger than the first.”

Forecasters said Franklin’s rains could cause flash floods and mudslides in the mountains of central Mexico. Four to eight inches of rain were forecast for mainland areas in the storm’s path, with localized amounts of up to 15 inches.

The hurricane is the first of what is expected to be a more active Atlantic hurricane season than normal. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released revised predictions Wednesday, saying the potential exists that this year’s hurricane season will be the most active since 2010.

NOAA forecasts 14 to 19 named storms this year, up from the 11-17 that were predicted in May. NOAA’s outlook still calls for between five and nine hurricanes, but the latest update increases the number of hurricane likely to become major by one, to five.

But no matter how many storms are in the Atlantic, it would only take one storm in the wrong place to impact Southwest Florida, Zedeker warned.

“Always have that plan ready to go if needed,” Zedeker said.

Hurricane season runs through Nov. 30.

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