VERACRUZ, Mexico - Tropical Storm Barry hit Mexico's Gulf Coast on Thursday, lashing the state of Veracruz with heavy rains but causing only minor flooding and no heavy damage in its first hours over land.
The second tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season packed sustained 40-mph winds. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm hit Veracruz just before 11 a.m. EDT. Civil defense workers readied emergency shelters and forecasters warned that heavy rains could trigger potentially deadly flash floods or mudslides.
Between 3 to 5 inches of rain were possible with up to 10 inches in some areas, the hurricane center said. Classes were canceled around the state but flights were operating normally out of the main airport in the city of Veracruz.
At the center, Hurricane Specialist Lixion Avila warned the rains could trigger life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, especially over mountains.
"There is still going to be a lot rain in the hours ahead," he told AP by telephone.
Early Thursday, blustery winds were already being reported around the Gulf Coast areas closest to the storm's center. Forecasters said tropical storm conditions were already being felt in some areas and that strong winds would continue through Thursday morning.
A tropical storm warning was in effect from Punta El Lagarto to Tuxpan, in Veracruz state.
Veracruz state Civil Protection Secretary Noemi Guzman said 2,000 shelters had been readied in the state with mattresses, blankets, water and canned food. She said the shelters at schools and recreation centers could house up to 306,000 people.
The port of Veracruz was closed to small vessels because of the strong winds, Guzman added.
The storm had formed as a depression off the coast of Belize on Monday and began moving northward, dumping heavy rains on parts of that country and northern Guatemala before entering the Gulf of Mexico off Mexico's Bay of Campeche and strengthening somewhat over warm Gulf waters.
After moving inland Thursday, the storm was expected to weaken throughout the day and then begin breaking apart Friday as it crosses southern Mexico, the hurricane center said.
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