Franklin Strengthens to Hurricane in Mexico


Hurricane Franklin slammed into Mexico's eastern coast early Thursday, sweeping the region with powerful winds and heavy rain capable of producing deadly flash floods.

Franklin made landfall near the town of Lechuguillas, some 70 miles (115 kilometers) northwest of the port of Veracruz, as a category one hurricane, the US National Hurricane Center reported at 0600 GMT.

That is the lowest level on the five-point scale. Veracruz state authorities nevertheless declared a red alert, and said the amount of damage would depend on how much water Franklin dumps, and where.

Franklin, the first hurricane of the 2017 season, was packing maximum sustained winds of 85 miles (140 kilometers) per hour, the NHC said.

"Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles (55 kilometers) from the center," the NHC said.

It added that expected rainfall totals of four to eight inches (101 to 202 millimetres), with isolated maximum amounts of 15 inches, "will be capable of producing life-threatening flash floods and mudslides."

Veracruz Governor Miguel Angel Yunes told TV network Televisa that the areas "most at risk are the ones where we have 'rapid response' rivers, rivers that originate in the mountains near the coast and whose discharge of water can rise rapidly."

There are 90 cities and towns that will likely feel the direct effects, with a total of more than two million residents, said Veracruz state disaster management chief Yolanda Baizabal.

Franklin struck the Yucatan peninsula in eastern Mexico on Monday. It crossed the peninsula into the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday.

Mexican soldiers and sailors were earlier deployed to carry out preventive evacuations along the coast and the mountains of the state of Puebla, where authorities fear that heavy rain could cause deadly landslides.

Mexico's long eastern coastline is often struck by storms during the Atlantic hurricane season.

The season runs from June 1 through November 30 although hurricanes may also occur outside this period.

In September 2013 Mexico was struck almost simultaneously by hurricanes Ingrid in the east and Manuel in the west, leaving some 157 dead in the southern state of Guerrero.