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Unclear if tropical storm Alex will hit oiled Gulf

Tropical Storm Alex formed in the western Caribbean on Saturday, and forecasters said it was unclear if it would hit the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

world Updated: Jun 26, 2010 19:13 IST


Tropical storm Alex formed in the western Caribbean on Saturday, and forecasters said it was unclear if it would hit the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami said early Saturday that the storm has maximum sustained winds of about 40 mph (65 kph). Most storm models show Alex traveling over the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico over the weekend, hurricane forecaster Jack Bevens said.

Bevens noted it's too soon to say with certainty if the storm will pass over the oiled Gulf, though for now it's not expected to hit the spill. A storm's predicted track can quickly change as conditions shift.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for the coast of Belize and the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, which separates the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico.

While the current forecast track has the storm shifting away from the spill, Bevens noted that could change.

Somewhere between 69 million and 132 million gallons (260 million and 500 million liters) of crude have spewed into the northeastern part of the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers and setting off the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

An armada of ships is working in the Gulf to siphon the oil. The storm raises concerns how it will affect efforts to contain the oil if BP PLC is forced to abandon the area for a while. A cap has been placed over the blown-out undersea well and some of the oil is being brought to a surface ship. Some of the oil at the surface is being burned. Other ships are drilling two relief wells, projected to be done by August, which are considered to be the best hope of stopping the leak. Forecasters have said they can't speculate about what rough weather would do to oil in the water.

The tropical storm is on track to reach the peninsula by late Saturday. It is about 200 miles (320 kilometers) east of Belize City and about 225 miles (360 kilometers) east-southeast of the Mexican city Chetumal.

Meanwhile in the Pacific, two major hurricanes are swirling but don't pose an immediate threat to land. Darby has weakened to a Category 2 storm, with maximum sustained winds near 110 mph (175 kph).

The hurricane is about 300 miles (480 kilometers) southwest of Zihuatanejo, Mexico. It's heading west-northwest near 6 mph (9 kph). Hurricane Celia has weakened to a Category 2 storm farther out in the Pacific. Celia's maximum sustained winds have decreased to 100 mph (160 kph). It is about 880 miles (1,415 kilometers) southwest of the southern tip of Baja California. The hurricane center says Celia is approaching cooler waters and is expected to continue weakening.

First Published: Jun 26, 2010 19:10 IST

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