Update, 11:22 p.m EDT -- As of 11 p.m. EDT, Tropical Storm Alex has moved inland over Belize. Current predictions indicate that the storm will enter the southern Gulf of Mexico by Sunday night, but will continue to head west-northwest toward the northeast coast of Mexico, away from the oil spill and U.S. homeports. We'll keep you posted.
(1:45 p.m. EDT) -- Tropical Storm Alex has formed in the Caribbean off the coast of Central America -- making it the first named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season.
According to the National Hurricane Center, the storm is currently located about 30 miles east-southeast of Belize City and 90 miles south-southeast of Chetumal, Mexico. With maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour, Alex is moving toward the west and is expected to move inland in the next few hours. Predictions put the storm crossing the Yucatan Peninsula today and Sunday and emerging over the Gulf of Mexico Sunday night or Monday.
Gale-force winds in the gulf could cause serious problems for the oil spill cleanup, and storm surges could bring oil closer to shore. At present, Alex is not expected to cross the oil spill, but it's possible that the storm could change directions.
Cruise Ship Itinerary Changes
The only Royal Caribbean ship currently affected is Grandeur of the Seas. The ship was scheduled to call in Cozumel on Sunday, but now it will call in Nassau, Bahamas, instead.
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
Tropical storm warnings are in effect for coastal Belize, Honduras' islands (including the cruise port of Roatan), and the east cost of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico (from Chetumal to Cancun). A tropical storm watch is in effect for the coast of Honduras from Limon west to the Guatemala border. Heavy rains are likely in the Yucatan, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras this weekend, and flash floods and mudslides are possible.
Depending on where Alex heads once it crosses into the Gulf of Mexico, homeports along the gulf, such as Galveston, could also be impacted next week.
--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor