Weakened Tropical Storm Claudette Enters Gulf of Mexico

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A weakened, disorganized Tropical Storm Claudette (search) entered the Gulf of Mexico (search) on Friday and started on a path that could lead it slowly toward southern Texas, after crossing over the Yucatan Peninsula and dumping heavy rain on the resort of Cancun (search).

While Claudette never became a hurricane as predicted, it survived its pass over land and re-emerged over the Gulf with winds of 50 mph. The storm's poorly defined center was about 150 miles northwest of Cancun, or about 600 miles southeast of Houston, Texas.

Claudette was moving northwest at 14 mph, but was expected to take a more westerly track that could place it somewhere around the border between Texas and Mexico early next week.

Its forward speed was expected to slow, the National Hurricane Center (search) in Miami said. The Mexican government canceled tropical storm warnings for the Yucatan Peninsula.

Claudette dumped heavy rains, sunk small boats and whipped waves into a frenzy in Cancun, but did little noticeable damage.

Forecasters had said Claudette could strengthen at some point after entering the Gulf and warned authorities from Cuba to Texas to take precautions. In Texas, oil giant BP evacuated nonessential employees from oil and gas platforms along the Gulf of Mexico, but the company had not halted production, a spokesman said.

Early in the day, Claudette battered Cancun's high-rise hotels with high winds and flooded several streets. But life quickly returned to normal.

Cancun's airport was operating normally after closing for several hours at the height of the storm overnight. Some flights were delayed but there were no cancellations.

City workers cleaned storm drains clogged with debris and hotel employees transferred lounge chairs and sun umbrellas from emergency storage back to the beach. People traversed deep puddles of water on bicycles and shopkeepers opened their doors on time.

"I see this as something normal," said Onorio Cortes, 25, who arrived at 8 a.m. sharp to his job at a discount pharmacy near high-rise hotels. Cortes said he saw few signs of damage.

Mexican and foreign tourists, some of whom expected the worst from the storm, resumed their vacations, passing the time in shopping centers and restaurants to escape the gray skies and drizzle in Claudette's wake.

"The weather didn't put a damper on anything," said Rusty Watterson, 44, of Apple Grove, W.Va., as he rolled up his jeans and waded with his wife and daughter through a large puddle at the entrance of the Plaza Caracol mall.

The bad weather was good for Wilfrido Ek, manager of the Iguana Wana bar and cafe.

"It looks like nobody's going to the beach. I know they're all going to come here and eat," Ek said happily.

Claudette is the third tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. It developed Tuesday in the Caribbean, brushing Jamaica's southern coast with heavy rain and rough surf, battering the Cayman Islands with dangerous waves and above-normal tides and scattering rain over parts of Cuba before arriving in Mexico.

Experts have predicted a busy Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1 and ends Nov. 30.