MIAMI – Franklin became the first hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic season on Wednesday hours ahead of its expected landfall on the Mexican mainland, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
The storm’s maximum sustained winds have increased to near 120 kph (75 mph), making it a Category 1 hurricane on the ascending five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, the NHC said in its 2100 GMT advisory.
Franklin, which made landfall Monday night in the southeastern section of the Yucatan Peninsula, is located over the waters of the Gulf of Mexico some 170 kilometers (105 miles) northeast of Veracruz.
The sixth named storm of the 2017 Atlantic season was moving toward the west at 19 kph (12 mph), according to the advisory.
“On the forecast track, the center of Franklin is expected to cross the coast in the Mexican state of Veracruz tonight or early Thursday,” the NHC said.
“Rapid weakening is expected after landfall,” the bulletin said.
Meanwhile, Mexico mobilized 8,000 soldiers and 3,000 shelters to be ready to provide aid to people affected by the storm after on Tuesday it crossed the Yucatan Peninsula without causing serious damage.
“The prediction is that it will hit early on Thursday, at approximately 1 am, on the coast of Veracruz state as a Category 1 hurricane,” said the head of Mexico’s Conagua national water commission, Roberto Ramirez de la Parra, at a press conference, adding that the storm is likely to bring torrential rains to about 20 of the country’s 32 states.
The National Civil Protection Service put the state of Veracruz on red alert, and the states of Puebla, Hidalgo and Tlaxcala on orange alerts.
A total of 3,600 marines were placed on alert in the coastal states of the Gulf of Mexico and in Mexico city, along with some 4,300 other troops and at least 270 vehicles, three aircraft and two helicopters.
A hurricane warning is in effect from Veracruz to Cabo Rojo, while a hurricane watch is in effect from Cabo Rojo to Rio Panuco.
A tropical storm warning is in effect along the coast east from Veracruz to Puerto Dos Bocas, and from north of Tuxpan to Barra del Tordo.
The NHC predicts that Franklin will dump between 4 and 8 inches of rain – with isolated maximum amounts of 15 inches – on the Mexican states of Tabasco, Veracruz, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Hidalgo, Queretaro and San Luis Potosi.
“A dangerous storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 4 to 6 feet above normal tide levels along the immediate coast near and to the north of where the center makes landfall,” the NHC said.