Monday, June 22, 2009

Tropical Storm Andres

By NATALIA PARRA, Associated Press Writer Natalia Parra, Associated Press Writer – 1 hr 28 mins ago

ACAPULCO, Mexico – A strengthening Tropical Storm Andres headed toward Mexico's Pacific coast Monday, prompting emergency preparations for a storm that forecasters said might become a hurricane.

Forecasters said Andres was likely to bring tropical storm force winds ashore between the port cities of Lazaro Cardenas and Manzanillo within a day, and the forecast track showed its center might scrape land at minimum hurricane force late Tuesday near picturesque towns such as Barra de Navidad that are home to some American and Canadian expatriates.

A hurricane watch was declared from Lazaro Cardenas to Cabo Corrientes.

The Acapulco city government prepared 120 shelters and warned residents to stay indoors, especially some 15,000 people in 20 zones most at risk for flooding. Heavy rains late Sunday downed a few trees in the resort city.

Late Sunday night, Andres became the first named storm of the Eastern Pacific hurricane season, which began May 15 and ends November 30 and is typically busiest between July and September.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Andres was centered about 240 miles (390 kilometers) southeast of Manzanillo at 11 a.m. PDT (2 p.m. EDT; 1800 GMT) Monday, and it had sustained winds near 60 mph (95 kph), with higher gusts.

It was moving toward the west-northwest near 5 mph (7 kph).

The forecast track showed it brushing the central Mexican coast on Tuesday before weakening and bending toward the west a little short of the Los Cabos resorts at the tip of the Baja California Peninsula Thursday night or Friday.

Forecasters said Andres could become a hurricane with sustained winds of at least 74 mph (119 kph) by Tuesday night.

It has been 40 years since it took so long for a named storm to develop in the Eastern Pacific.

"Normally that season gets under way somewhat earlier," said Richard Pasch, a senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. "But it's not necessarily an indication that it'll be a quiet year in that basin. We've seen some years starting late and become quite active. We're just going to have to wait and see on that."

Federal forecasters have predicted a near-normal or below-normal season, with the possibility for 13 to 18 named storms, including six to 10 hurricanes.

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