Karl could become hurricane Friday, affect Mexican mainland


Miami, Florida (CNN) -- Tropical Storm Karl charged into the southwestern Gulf of Mexico early Thursday after whipping Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, the National Hurricane Center reported.

Tracking models show Karl becoming a hurricane before reaching the Mexican mainland late Friday. A storm becomes a hurricane when it has sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph).

"On the forecast track, Karl will move across the southern Gulf of Mexico and approach the coast of the state of Veracruz," the center said.

A hurricane watch has been posted for the eastern coast of Mexico from La Cruz southward to Barra de Nautla. A tropical storm watch has been discontinued for the west coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Karl strengthened as it emerged into the Bay of Campeche.

At 5 a.m. ET, Karl had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph) and it was traveling west-northwest at 13 mph (20 kph). The storm was about 70 miles (115 km) west of Campeche, Mexico.

While not a powerful storm, Karl is expected to dump plenty of rain.

Accumulations of up to 5 inches were forecast for the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize and northern Guatemala with isolated maximum amounts of 8 inches, the hurricane center said.

"Rainfall accumulations of 5 to 10 inches are expected along the coast of Mexico within the Hurricane Watch area, with isolated amounts of 15 inches possible in the mountains," the center said. "These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mud slides."

The Atlantic Ocean, meanwhile, sported a pair of hurricanes -- both far from land.

At 5 a.m. ET, Hurricane Igor had top sustained winds of 145 mph (230 kph) and was moving to the west-northwest at 7 mph (11 kph), according to forecasters. The storm's center was about 955 miles (1,535 km) south-southeast of Bermuda.

Hurricane-force winds from the powerful Category 4 storm extended up to 70 miles (110 km) from its center, and tropical storm-force winds could be felt up to 275 miles (445 km) outward, according to the center.

While Igor will stay well north of the Caribbean, the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are expected to experience dangerous surf conditions, along with some wind and rain because of Igor's size, forecasters said.

Meanwhile, in the far eastern Atlantic, Julia was downgraded to a Category 2 storm on Wednesday as it continued to weaken.

As of 5 a.m. ET, Julia's maximum sustained winds were 105 mph (165 kph), and it was moving northwest at 18 mph (30 kph). The storm's center was about 875 miles (1,410 km) west-northwest of the Cape Verde Islands.

Julia is expected to slowly weaken on Thursday. Neither Julia or Igor are expected to threaten land.

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