The Latest: Franklin is first hurricane of Atlantic season
MEXICO CITY – The Latest on Hurricane Franklin (all times local):
Franklin has become the first Atlantic hurricane of the season as it moves toward Mexico's Gulf coast.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami upgraded the storm to a hurricane late Wednesday afternoon. Franklin has maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (121 kph). The storm is about 105 miles (169 kilometers) northeast of Veracruz, Mexico, and moving west at 12 mph (19 kph).
A hurricane warning is in effect for the coast of Mexico from Puerto de Veracruz to Cabo Rojo, and a hurricane watch extends north of Cabo Rojo to Rio Panuco.
Forecasters expect the hurricane to continue strengthening until it makes landfall in the state of Veracruz late Wednesday or early Thursday.
The hurricane center says storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 meters) above normal tide levels along the coast. Forecasters say rainfall of 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) is possible, with some areas getting as much as 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain.
Tropical Storm Franklin took aim at Mexico's central Gulf coast after a relatively mild run across the Yucatan Peninsula, with forecasts saying it would strengthen into a hurricane before making its second landfall late Wednesday or early Thursday.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Franklin began gaining strength after getting over open water again, with its maximum sustained winds quickly rising to 50 mph (85 kph) by late Tuesday. The storm was expected to gain more power as it moved across the lower reaches of the southern Gulf of Mexico and likely would be a hurricane by Wednesday evening, the center said.
Franklin's center was 325 miles (525 kilometers) east-northeast of Veracruz late Tuesday and it was heading west-northwest at 10 mph (17 kph).
A hurricane watch was in effect along the Mexican coast from Veracruz to Tuxpan. A tropical storm warning was posted from Veracruz east to Celestun and from Tuxpan north to Rio Panuco. Tropical storm-force winds extended up to 185 miles (295 kilometers) from the center.
Mexico Civil Protection director Ricardo de la Cruz said Tuesday that the storm's impact on Yucatan was not as bad as initially feared, with some trees down and power out in some areas. But, he warned, "The second impact could even be stronger than the first."
Forecasters said Franklin's rains could cause flash floods and mudslides in the mountains of central Mexico. Four to eight inches (10 to 20 centimeters) of rain were forecast for mainland areas in the storm's path, with localized amounts of up to 12 inches (35 centimeters).