published Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Tropical storm brings heavy rain to central Mexico

VERACRUZ, Mexico — The Atlantic season’s first tropical storm hit Mexico’s central Gulf coast Thursday, hurling heavy rains over a wide swath of the country but causing little damage.

The heart of Tropical Storm Arlene struck land near Cabo Rojo, a cape just off the mainland between the cities of Tampico and Tuxpan. Arlene was projected to weaken more during the night and dissipate Friday.

Authorities had worried heavy rains could cause flash floods and mudslides in 13 states.

The storm was welcomed in northern Tamaulipas state, where rain fell on soil dried out by the most severe drought to hit the area in 50 years.

“There is nothing to regret and so far the rains have been favorable,” Tamaulipas state Civil Protection Secretary Pedro Benavides said. “We hope it keeps raining.”

Coastal towns in Veracruz and Tamaulipas states appeared to have escaped serious damage.

In the port city of Tampico, authorities said there was minor flooding in some low-laying neighborhoods. Beaches in the nearby cities of Madero and Altamira remained closed and warn small vessels were warned to stay docked.

Arlene had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph) and was moving inland at 8 mph (13 kph) Thursday evening, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Tree branches fell, water accumulated on some streets and a neighborhood of Tuxpan lost electricity, Veracruz state civil protection authorities reported.

“There aren’t any major problems, (and) we hope ’Arlene’ will be out of sight by midday,” Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte tweeted Thursday. He credited preparations ahead of the storm.

Officials in the states of Veracruz, Tamaulipas and San Luis Potosi had guarded against possible flooding by closing schools, mobilizing emergency medical units and preparing evacuation shelters as rain fell on coastal and mountain regions.

Mexico’s national weather service said 6 inches (150 millimeters) of rain fell over a 24-hour period in northern Veracruz state.

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