(Releads and updates throughout, pvs MEXICO CITY)
MERIDA, Mexico May 31 Tropical storm Arthur,
the first of the year in the Atlantic and the second in the
Americas, whipped up strong winds and dumped heavy rains on
Saturday as it churned across Mexico's Yucatan peninsula.
Packing sustained winds of near 40 mph (65 kph), Arthur
drenched southern parts of Yucatan as well as neighboring
Belize and Guatemala, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center
said. Up to 10 inches (25 cm) of rain are expected.
"These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and
mud slides, especially in mountainous terrain," the center
Arthur, which formed a day before the official June 1 start
of the Atlantic hurricane season, was centered 75 miles (125
km) northwest of Belize City.
It was moving westerly at 7 mph (11 kph) and was expected
to weaken. It is expected to cross the Yucatan, south of the
colonial city of Merida and emerge intact on Sunday in the Bay
of Campeche, part of the Gulf of Mexico where there are oil
"Arthur is expected to weaken to a depression tonight, but
it then could regain tropical storm strength if it emerges over
the Bay of Campeche," the hurricane center said.
Arthur is seen lingering in the southern part of the Gulf
of Mexico until Tuesday, according to a five-day tracking
forecast map from the hurricane center.
Small boats were banned from leaving a handful of ports
along the Mexican Caribbean coast, according to Nemesio Medina,
head of Quintana Roo state government weather center. But
conditions were not bad enough to evacuate, he told reporters.
Another tropical storm, Alma, which formed in the Pacific,
broke up on Friday over Central America's mountains after
slamming into Nicaragua's Pacific coast, killing three people.
(Reporting by Jose Cortazar; Writing by Chris Aspin)