(12:45 p.m. EDT) -- Tropical Storm Alex, the first named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, is strengthening, prompting hurricane watches in Texas and Mexico.
According to the National Hurricane Center, the storm is currently located about 85 miles west-northwest of Campeche, Mexico, and 535 miles southeast of Brownsville, Texas. Maximum sustained winds have reached 60 miles per hour. Alex is moving toward the north-northwest and is gaining strength as it crosses the Gulf of Mexico. The storm is expected to reach hurricane strength by Tuesday.
Gale-force winds in the gulf could cause serious problems for the oil spill cleanup, and storm surges could bring oil closer to shore. Although current predictions show that Alex will cross the gulf away from the oil spill, that forecast could change if the storm veers to the north or east. However, according to a report in the Associated Press, the storm's outer wind field may still be strong enough to push more oil toward shore and hamper the clean-up effort.
Cruise Ship Itinerary Changes
Carnival's Carnival Ecstasy and Carnival Triumph were scheduled to call on Progreso on Monday and Cozumel on Tuesday; in deference to the storm's path, both ships will call on the ports in reverse order (Cozumel on Monday, Progreso on Tuesday).
Weather Outlook: Next Affected Ships & Ports
Hurricane watches are in effect for Texas (south of Baffin Bay to the mouth of the Rio Grande) and Mexico (from the mouth of the Rio Grande to La Cruz). The storm is expected to produce rain over the Yucatan, southern Mexico and northern Guatemala through Tuesday, and heavy rains could reach coastal areas of Tamaulipas, northern Veracruz and South Texas by Tuesday night. Flash floods and mudslides are still possible, and these storm conditions have already killed four people in Guatemala and El Salvador this weekend, reports the A.P.
Depending on where Alex heads once it crosses into the Gulf of Mexico, homeports along the gulf, such as Galveston, could also be impacted this week. Carnival Ecstasy is scheduled to depart the Texas homeport on Thursday, the day Alex is expected to make landfall.
--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor
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